PR push for "Voice Stress Analysis" products?

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A Craigslist ad posted 20 days ago — "Seeking a Blog Writer for Voice Stress Analysis Technology":

We are looking for someone to ghostwrite blog posts and articles for a large company that specializes in computer-aided voice stress analysis technology or CVSA. We want you to primarily discuss the scientific research backing it up and the psychophysiological processes involved in implementing the technology. Basically, we want you to describe how it works, why it works, and why it is an effective technology, with everything backed up by scientific research and facts. […]

We are seeking a motivated, passionate, enthusiastic ghostwriter to craft blog articles ranging loosely from 750-900 words, that are valuable and informative to our target audience. Our audience for this client is law enforcement agencies, military, intelligence, immigration, and any other section of our government or private law practices that will be using investigative interviewing methods to screen subjects.

I really wish there was some "scientific research backing it up", and especially some information about  "the psychophysiological processes involved in implementing the technology". I've been looking for more than 40 years, and I'm still coming up empty. To see what I mean, check out the list of posts below. If you're pressed for time, skim the first one and the last one, which provide considerable detail about the shocking lack of scientific validation (or even replicable description) of these methods.

"Analyzing voice stress", 7/2/2004
"Determining whether a lottery ticket will win, 99.999992849% of the time", 8/29/2004.
"KishKish BangBang", 1/17/2007
"Industrial bullshitters censor linguists", 4/30/2009 (see especially the comments threads, e.g. here, here, here, here.)
"Speech-based lie detection in Russia", 6/8/2011
"Speech-based 'lie detection'? I don't think so", 11/10/2011
"Reputable linguistic 'lie detection'?", 12/5/2011
"Linguistic Deception Detection: Part 1", 12/6/2011
"More deceptive statements about Voice Stress Analysis", 5/18/2014

For aspiring ghost-bullshitters answering the Craigslist ad, those posts include links to lots of pseudo-scientific stuff in the popular and topical press. Ignore the debunking, and you'll have a fine career helping this unidentified VSA company peddle its phony technology to "law enforcement agencies, military, intelligence, immigration, and any other section of our government or private law practices that will be using investigative interviewing methods to screen subjects".

[h/t James Harnsberger]

Update — Some relevant new research, which I'm afraid will not be of any help to the aspiring ghost-bullshitter: James Harnsberger and Harry Hollien, "Assessing Deception by Voice Analysis: Part II: The LVA", Investigative Science Journal 2016. The abstract [emphasis added]:

This overview is the second of a two-part series designed to brief law enforcement personnel, attorneys and members of the intelligence services about the ability of voice analyzers to detect deception and stress from speech. Such analyses are important as devices of this type are proliferating and their use is creating problems. Thus, the question was asked: Can these devices actually provide valid information about deceptive behaviors? The effectiveness of NITV’s Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) was reviewed in the Part I article (Hollien and Harnsberger, 2013) where it was reported that the system was found to be ineffective. This second of the two reviews will focus on a somewhat different device – Nemesysco’s Layered Voice Analyzer (LVA). Here the summary will provide information about 1) its background, 2) relevant research, 3) a large laboratory experiment and 4) an extensive field study. The highly controlled laboratory experiment, assessing LVA, employed speech samples of individuals who systemically varied their utterances from normal to those which were intensely deceptive. To create the latter, subjects had to hold very strong views about some issue and were required to make sharply derogatory statements about them while believing that they would be observed by colleagues and friends. A double-blind evaluation of these utterances was carried out by two teams of qualified LVA operators. The field experiment (Horvath et al 2013)  focused on a group of suspects split in two groups — a group that had produced truthful utterances and another whose members produced deceptive speech. The veracity of these utterances was validated by several procedures based primarily on polygraph evaluations. The detection rates provided by LVA operators were both assessed directly and then contrasted with the accuracy of experienced auditors. The results obtained by both studies demonstrated that the LVA system operates at only about chance levels.


  1. BillR said,

    April 24, 2017 @ 2:24 pm

    Why let mere facts stand in the way of a good marketing opportunity?

  2. Gregory Kusnick said,

    April 24, 2017 @ 2:46 pm

    Our audience for this client is law enforcement agencies…

    A bit of nerdview there.

  3. Rubrick said,

    April 24, 2017 @ 7:16 pm

    I think I would like to try living for a year or so in a world where ghostwriting was strictly illegal. I suspect I would want to stay. (I have no problem with people being paid to write on behalf of others; its their anonymity, and the false attribution of their work to others, that I find completely lacking in societal value.)

  4. speedwell said,

    April 24, 2017 @ 7:52 pm

    I've been a documentation writer for technical companies for many years. I am just good enough at it that I'm half tempted to take the job just so I can write blog posts that sound superficially plausible and that stroke the bullshit company's egos while saying essentially nothing and being as easy to debunk as a claim that the moon is made of green cheese. Takes a thief (bullshitter) to catch a thief (bullshitter). :D

  5. maidhc said,

    April 25, 2017 @ 1:28 pm

    I don't see why they say they want a "ghostwriter". A ghostwriter is someone who writes things that are published under someone else's name, usually someone well-known.

    It seems to me that they are looking for someone to write press releases and the like, which are often not published under any name at all other than the company, or just a made-up name. Or blog posts, which again are often published under made-up names, e.g., PhoneDog Noah (in the interesting court case PhoneDog v. Kravitz).

    I think that they don't really know how do marketing, or they would know the difference between a ghostwriter and a marketing writer.

    The following is very suspicious:

    We are looking for someone that loves to do research, and find the science with very little information available by a quick Google search. You are going to have to do a lot of the fieldwork and digging around for the research yourself. Basically, putting together the science of how this technology works when there is very little existing literature or information. Which is why we are hiring you!

    Do they even have a product?

    [(myl) Both NITV and Nemesysco seem to be well supplied with, um, imaginative writers, ghost or otherwise. Certainly neither of them needs to rely on some free-lancer to figure out what the technology is and how to describe it.

    So my guess would have been that this ad is posted on behalf of some other company looking to move into this area; maybe a start-up looking for angel bait? or an established company moving sideways from some other law-enforcement-related product line, needing stuff for their sales force to point at?

    But CVSA is a registered trademark of NITV, so either "a large company that specializes in computer-aided voice stress analysis technology or CVSA" is NITV, or else the ad is genericizing along with its other sins.

    Given that, my best guess is that the "ghostwriting" part is serious, and NITV wants to arrange for some outside groups (bloggers; op-ed writers; law-enforcement professionals) to promote its products, by supplying them (at arm's length, via a PR contractor) with ghostwritten text. ]

  6. Charles Antaki said,

    April 27, 2017 @ 7:30 am

    Following up the 2104 post I tried to find the original of the mysteriously CVSA-supportive article in Criminalistics and Court Expertise, but the journal remains elusive; nevertheless there is some evidence that it exists, or existed at some point, published in Ukraine – link to an index record here. But isn't available to my library, or possibly any UK library.

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