Spy office names winner of research challenge

Two researchers took home a $25,000 prize Thursday from a top spy agency for developing a system that helps predict how trustworthy people are by studying their partners. 

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) announced the winners of the contest hosted by a research arm of the agency. The contest followed the introduction of a project in 2010 that sought technology and other approaches that could assess trust even under stress and deception.


The 70-day contest attracted 39 contestants and was a product of the Intelligence Advanced Research Project Activity (IARPA). The group, housed inside the DNI, focuses on what it calls “high risk, high reward” research on intelligence activities. 

The two winners, Troy Lau and Scott Kuzdeba, both work at BAE Systems in Massachusetts. Their statistical technique, dubbed Jedi Mind, found that heart rate and reaction time of a person are useful markers to determine "how likely their partner was to keep a promise."

It increased predictions by 15 percent.

Adam Russell the program manager said the winning group helped shed light on the project's overall goal: "that the self’s own, often non-conscious signals — if they can be detected and leveraged appropriately — may provide additional valuable information in trying to anticipate the intentions of others,” he said.