Sunday, March 17, 2013

Forensics and Assessment of Suicide Risk

USAToday posted a story about a researcher who is working to teach a computer to assess the suicide risk levels of patients; he has a database of suicide notes and is using teams of investigators to tag language in them in order to teach the computer the patterns to look for. You can read the original article here.

The statistics provided near the end of the article are interesting:

The computer was 93 percent accurate -- identifying those with suicidal tendencies over the control group -- while humans were right slightly more than 50 percent of the time with the same groups.

I could see how a computer would be able to move straight to the heart of the matter--looking solely for the triggers it's been trained to catch--which could help improve its accuracy. Human perception is often blinded by too many outside factors. That being said, I am interested in knowing how well the computer performs in continuing trials; I wonder if language is too narrow a scope to identify risk (leaving out other factors, such as history, facial expressions, intonation). The article, of course, does say that the computer is not meant to replace a practitioner/counselor/doctor--it is only meant to aid in diagnosing risk.

Looking at John Pestian's list of publications, I don't see one where he specifically talks about the outcomes of this project--something I'd very much like to see.

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