Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques

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Introduction endnote 6, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Not long ago, a training program called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques) taught those TSA agents to detect deception and assess risk based on facial and bodily movements, on the theory that such movements reveal your innermost feelings. It didn’t work, and the program cost taxpayers $900 million.

On April 6, 2011, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing to review the value and effectiveness of the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) behavioral-based security screening program, known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT).[1][2]

Six witnesses testified at this congressional hearing:

  • Mr. Stephen Lord, Government Accountability Office
  • Mr. Larry Willis, Program Manager, Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, Science and Technology Directorate, US Department of Homeland Security
  • Dr. Paul Ekman, The Ekman Group
  • Dr. Maria Hartwig, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal College
  • Dr. Phillip Rubin, Chief Operating Officer, Haskins Laboratories and Chair of BBCSS, NAS, and prior Director of Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences at NSF
  • Mr. Peter J. DiDomenica, who developed SPOT while Director of Security Policy at Boston Logan International Airport

In November 2013, the US Government Accountability Office reported that they did not find evidence that the behavior detection training methods were valid.[3][4]

SPOT’s reincarnation, called the Hostile Intent Detection and Evaluation (HIDE), appears to be more consistent with newer evidence on how context influences how people express and perceive emotion.[5] This claim awaits scientific verification, however.


Notes on the Notes