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Neuroscientists: Our Brains May Detect Deepfakes When Minds Don’t

Using electroencephalography, researchers found that brains may be spotting something that minds miss

In an interesting series of experiments using electroencephalography (EEG), University of Sydney neuroscientists found that our brains are sometimes alerted to computer-generated fakes when our minds really don’t know:

When looking at participants’ brain activity, the University of Sydney researchers found deepfakes could be identified 54 percent of the time. However, when participants were asked to verbally identify the deepfakes, they could only do this 37 percent of the time.

“Although the brain accuracy rate in this study is low – 54 percent – it is statistically reliable,” said senior researcher Associate Professor Thomas Carlson, from the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology.

“That tells us the brain can spot the difference between deepfakes and authentic images.”

University of Sydney, “Your brain is better at busting deepfakes than you” at Eurekalert (July 10, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription.

There were actually two separate tests:

The researchers performed two experiments: one behavioural and one using neuroimaging. In the behavioural experiment, participants were shown 50 images of real and computer-generated fake faces. They were asked to identify which were real and which were fake.

Then, a different group of participants were shown the same images while their brain activity was recorded using EEG, without knowing that half the images were fakes.

University of Sydney, “Your brain is better at busting deepfakes than you” at Eurekalert (July 10, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription.

More research is needed, of course. For now, brains may be spotting something that minds miss. Are some physiological processes less confused by ambient noise than our consciousness might be?

There is realistic concern that we are losing the battle with online deepfakes because production is moving faster than detection. That includes deepfake voices you recognize and deepfakes in science journals.

Many people worry about deepfakes influencing political and military decisions. But the reality is that the technology is inexpensive, which could soon mean that they are influencing everyday life.


You may also wish to read: The brain doesn’t always do better than the mind. It depends on the challenge. Consider optical illusions: The brain’s optical center makes assumptions and takes shortcuts in order to cut down on the workload in a busy world. These shortcuts can be studied and used to generate illusions.


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Neuroscientists: Our Brains May Detect Deepfakes When Minds Don’t