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Additional Info[edit]

I have added two new sentences to the first paragraph regarding the polygraph’s history. The first sentence briefly summarizes how early societies utilized ancient methods of torture for lie detection. I felt that it was important to establish the safety and efficiency of the polygraph and provide a reason why the old methods were eventually dropped. In addition, I wrote that William Marston’s concept machine indicated a strong positive correlation between systolic blood pressure and lying because I felt it was limited. With the source I have provided, it assists in explaining why Marston was the advocate for the modern polygraph. I also included another sentence in the second paragraph regarding Elizabeth Marston serving as inspiration for Marston’s work. It might be an unnecessary addition as the paragraph supports her collaboration, but I felt that another source would suffice. I also added a couple new sentences to the fourth paragraph about Leonarde Keller’s new adaption of the polygraph. Because his device was purchased by the FBI and served as the modern prototype, I felt its significance to be included in the article.

I added the effects a pre-test can have on both guilty and innocent subjects to the testing procedure section. The article lacked the potential increase in anxiety for both subjects and how intimidating the pretest can be. Under the validity section, I noticed it mentioned the Green River Case and the polygraph’s failure. I added more information to the paragraph, like the name of the innocent subject who actually told the truth but failed his exam. This addition enhanced the significance of event and of the polygraph’s unreliability. I also added an explanation of the common misconceptions on polygraph measurements to the last paragraph of this section. Misconceptions may be a factor in why many organizations use the polygraph and are surprised by its low reliability. The article also felt limited as it did not discuss studies for alternatives to polygraphs. I added a new section that discusses two studies, one on using the fMRIs and the other using reaction time based tests. Each test’s limitations were listed to emphasize that these are not soon-to-be replacements for the polygraph. I felt that an extensive section discussing the polygraph’s unreliability needed to be followed by a section discussing possible alternatives for lie detection. Aamiller90 — comment added by Aamiller90 (talkcontribs) 18:16, 5 December 2012 (UTC)

Slight Definition Change[edit]

The whole basis for the polygraph is that there is a connection between the mental process of deception and physiological metrics measured by the device. Since this basis is contentious, I clarified it in the definition. (talk) 21:08, 23 January 2008 (UTC)

pov correction[edit]

I have removed "It is interesting to note that, so far, no scientific study has been published that offers convincing evidence of the validity of the polygraph test". What constitutes "convincing evidence" and "validity of the polygraph test" is really a matter of opinion. The very next paragraph says that the NAS found 57 scientifically sound studies that demonstrate that on average the polygraph is better than chance. Therefore, there really are 57 studies that convincingly show that the polygraph test is more valid than guessing. On some other interpretation it might not be, but Wikipedia is not a forum for private opinions. -- 22:03, 21 November 2006 (UTC)

I disagree. The courts have long established a scientific principals test to determine what is acceptable and what is not, and polygraphs have never been able to meet that criteria. "convincing evidence" and "validity" are part of the very foundation of our American legal system, and to suggest that they are somehow subjective expresses a particular lack of information about how it works. Like it or not, we do have very strict (re: objective) meanings for these terms, at least insofar as they apply to the legal system. "Validity", as we understand its meaning here, means that the machine must not only succeed in its stated aim, but must do so to an already established scientific bechmark with such an accuracy that all doubt as to whether it has succeeded or not will be scientifically removed. For instance, take a computer: If its stated aim is to perform advanced algorithms accurately, and it does so correctly every single time (to a "benchmark" of an existing mathematical formula that can be checked), with no error, than it can be correctly said to be valid. If, however, it only gets the calculations correct 30 percent of the time, this cannot be the case. It is not valid. A polygraphs stated aim is to accurately discern "lies". Validity would imply that it does this to a benchmark (yes, one does exist for this) every single time. It does not. Just because the machine is "better than guessing" does not make it valid. In fact, simply because it is just "better than guessing" is proof enough that the machine is not valid. Therefore, it is completely accurate to say both things. Futhermore, if you read on in the paragraph, you will se an explanation given by NAS as to why it makes sense to say both as well. I find no fault with this, and that is why im putting it back in. Darthhk 05:15, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

One Million USA Dollars[edit]

The James Randi Educational Foundation will surrender US$1,000,000 to the first polygraph expert who steps forward and demonstrates the effectivness of polygraphs. Since polygraphs do not work --- they are pseudoscience devices --- his money is safe. Consider the fact that polygraph operators avoid his one million dollars, that is excellent evidence they know damn well the machine is utterly worthless in determining deception. Any polygraph operator out there who wants to be an instant millionaire with just a day or two of work may step forward and be tested by the JREF Desertphile January 08, 2006 10:46AM PST

I went to the JREF page noted, and found nothing about polygraphs. Whatever else a polygraph may or may not be, it is not "paranormal" - which is what the JREF challenge is all about.
I confirmed with JREF that polygraphs and polygraph tests are eligible for the ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Please write to James Randi and ask yourself via and you will get it from the horse's mouth himself, so to speak. Polygraphs are not paranormal, but they are useless, worthless, and pseudoscience--- and covered by the Randi Challenge. Desertphile February 28th., +2008 Gregorian Calendar

Fruit Machine[edit]

Forgive me for being dense, but what does this article have to do with fruit machines? Koyaanis Qatsi 09:32 Feb 16, 2003 (UTC)

The fruit machine to detect homosexuality works quite similar to a polygraph. AxelBoldt 23:22 Feb 16, 2003 (UTC)

Sorry, I'd be a second-rate English major. Not too good with metaphor, and wouldn't know phallic symbolism from a pole in the ground. Koyaanis Qatsi

Nobody wants to banter? Ok, I'll do it:
"Nice Freudian slip."
"It's a camisole."
Thank you, thank you, you've been a great crowd. Koyaanis Qatsi

Used anywhere outside the USA?[edit]

Is there any single Western country outside of the US that allows its police and justice to use polygraphs? David.Monniaux 21:57, 3 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I know, as a barrister, that polygraphs are never used in Australia. They are regarded as laughable. I don't think any developed legal system outside the USA uses them. Unless someone objects I'm going to extend the paragraph about them not being used in Europe. Avalon 10:44, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, most countries don't really care about polygraphs for justice. I mean on a certain level it works, but it can be deceived in quite a few ways. AllStarZ 02:02, 15 January 2006 (UTC)
To be more specific, is there at least one country in Latin America where polygraph examinations are admissible? If not in a criminal proceeding, how about in a civil proceeding, like determining whether you'll make a good employee for the government?

In Canada, polygraphs are used by the police, but clearly aren't admissable in court Ejhopkins 01:28, 7 October 2007 (UTC)Ejhopkins

They also use them on people they intend to hire as a screening method. Makes one wonder about what sorts of analytic skills they are taught when considering evidence. Belief may be enough? Fremte (talk) 01:06, 3 March 2008 (UTC)

Take or not take[edit]

I came across this comment [1] and came over here to see whether there is a diffrent opinion offered in case you were asked to take a test. May be worth to address that in future. "In an interview, Ames was asked how he passed the polygraph test. His response was that when told he was to be polygraphed he asked his Soviet handlers what to do, and was quite surprised that their advice was simply to relax when being asked questions, which he did." Kind of remember reading this from a page of alleged USSR mole who was uncovered by Nixion i am not very sure though when some church minister brought the story to him.


What is the justification for this article being included in the pseudoscience category? Factoid Killer 11:41, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

it IS psuedoscience.
Right... so it is pseudoscience because it is pseudoscience. hmmm Factoid Killer
I would say that since courts in several countries are accepting it as evidence (albeit evidence that isn't unequivocally trusted), "psuedoscience" might be slightly POV. On the other hand, the scientific studies and the scientific community seem to lean towards polygraphs being pseudoscience...? --Interiot 16:37, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
See (see pp. 212-216 of The Polygraph and Lie Detection, Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph, Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences and Committee on National Statistics, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council of the National Academies). It says about the evidence about the validity of poligraph that its "theoretical rationale... is quite weak", it has offered no proof that it would be a field of scientific study, and that such research has little to do with contemporary psychophysiological research about deception. Tgeorgescu 13:37, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

To answer the original question: the hypothesis is that a biometric test can establish, with meaningful accuracy, if a subject is lying. There is no evidence that this is true. While there might be weak correlation in some subjects between biometric indexes and the truthfulness of responses, this is far from enough to determine with any certainty if someone is lying. The system is prone to false positives (detecting lies when none exist) and false negatives (clearing subjects who *are* lying).

Its only use is as an interrogation technique (cf. good-cop, bad-cop) where credulous (and guilty) subjects might be convinced enough to confess. Against a prepared and determined subject it is worse than useless since it will generally clear him.

One convincing piece of evidence that this is pseudoscience is that it takes a substantial amount of time to "train" the operator - particularly in the interpretation of the data. This inability of the equipment to provide a clear yes/no answer and the dependency on the subjective view-point of the operator is particularly damning.--Oscar Bravo 19:16, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

Come now. It takes a substantial amount of time to train people in the interpretation of X-ray films and electrocardiograms too. Polygraphs may be bunk, but long training period does not demonstrate that. 18:51, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

Good point to compare polygraphs with ECGs - I was thinking initially in comparison to something like an alcohol breath analyser. This is a machine that answers the question "has the subject been drinking alcohol?" Many models simply flash a green, amber or red light because there is a very reliable correlation between the alcohol present in breath and the alcohol level in the bloodstream. Compared to a real scientific instrument like this, the polygraph is very weak.

Returning to the more difficult case of an ECG; it is true that the ECG is a lot less precise than the breathalyser and that a skilled operator is required to interpret its readings. However, where it differs from the polygraph is that certain heart defects do give rise to corresponding patterns in the readout, and that this is consistent over many subjects. In the case of the polygraph, the patterns that correspond to "lie" or "truth" have to be identified by comparison with patterns from control questions from the same subject. The margin for error is correspondingly large.

I am not disputing that some people might get sweaty palms when they tell a lie! But the incidence of error (positive and negative) is so large as to make the technique essentially worthless.--Oscar Bravo 13:36, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

I think its more important to establish if anyone notable calls it pseudoscience, or something that implies the same thing. But I personally think you're stretching the definition of pseudoscience. Seems to me a "real peudoscience"-based device should necessarily have a success-to-failure ratio of 50-50 in any decent study, because it's plain bogus. If lie detectors can even get 70% that's pretty interesting. 04:35, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

There are certainly more people than just me who call it pseudoscience (google "polygraph pseudoscience" returns >800 hits). Whether any of them are notable is a matter of opinion. Certainly, some skeptics think it's pseudoscience ( but then, you'd expect them to say that. With regards to how "accurate" it is - the answer would be "very hard to tell" (the link above reports claims of between 50% and 99%). It is difficult to construct an experiment that would reliably measure its efficacy. For example, there are cases where a guilty subject confesses during a session. These are claimed as a positive hit by polygraph proponents. However, the confession could just be motivated by the fear that polygraph might work and the desire to lessen punishment by co-operating (the prisoner's dilemma). How to subtract out this "placebo effect" is the big problem in any experiment.

The principle of the polygraph rests on the conflation of two hypotheses:

  • Lying makes you anxious
  • Anxiety can be quantitatively measured

Neither of these can be regarded as hard facts that are true all the time, everywhere. More likely:

  • Lying often makes some people a bit anxious
  • Anxiety can sometimes be correlated with things that can be inaccurately measured

Woolly x wooly = extremely fluffy :-) --Oscar Bravo 06:59, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

The following people and organizations hold advanced degrees in relevant fields and find the accuracy of the polygraph questionable:
Charles Honts, Ph. D., Boise State University a professor of psychology. His webpage can be accessed here. It contains a wealth of information regarding the use of the polygraph as a screening tool.
American Psychological Association states “Most psychologists agree that there is little evidence that polygraph tests can accurately detect lies.” The link is available here.
David Lykken, Ph. D., a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. His Curriculum Vitae is here, if you examine it closely you find that he was a consultant for the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute. His opinion on the polygraph is available here.
A more interesting question would be to find a relevant expert outside the polygraph community that believes polygraphs are not pseudo-science.
Max The Dog 21:19, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

It is clearly not "hard science". But then neither is psychology. Can you make a test for depression or schizophrenia that are 100% accurate and can't be faked?

According to what I've read, the whole process is set up to make a person get nervous when they lie, then the machine measures the nervousness level. It may not be mind-reading but it may well be a process which can detect lying... sometimes anyway. Shake out some percentage of criminals/spies on whom it works, and deal with the rest the old-fashioned way. It certainly makes a lot more sense than, say, interpreting their astrological sign. The question would be is it more accurate than that. Lykken's claim that "Polygraphs are a little more accurate than flipping a coin" sounds like a concession that they are real science, just not accurate enough to rely on. Well that's an entirely different argument that the hyperbole of many of the critics.

The criticism from the American Psychological Association and the argument that there have been no successful studies are definately damning though. I can think of a way to make a thorough scientific study, but to give that element of realism to produce nervousness it would involve shocking people when caught lying. 00:49, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Psychologists performing schizophrenia examinations also acknowledge the limits of their ability. Let me ask this question: After a pap smear would we go out and perform a hysterectomy? Certain polygraph tests have a degree of utility. Even critics acknowledge that polygraphs regarding a specific incident have a statistically significant degree of accuracy. John Furedy a critic of the polygraph based at the University of Toronto places some faith in the Guilty Knowledge Polygraph.
Even the American Polygraph Association recently reversed itself and decided “The decision to hire, or not to hire an applicant, should never be based solely on the results of the polygraph examination.” [2] This is a stark contrast to claims of accuracy that exceeded 95%.
The majority of polygraphs performed today are done for screening purposes with government agencies. The polygraph exclusively determines if an applicant is hired. They also are used as the exclusive basis to grant a security clearence. No further investigation is performed. These are not the specific incident polygraphs that Lykken is discussing. The zealous reliance on polygraph exhibited by intelligence & law enforcement agencies for mass screening purposes approaches a level of pseudo-science, that expects far more utility & accuracy than a polygraph is capable of.
However, Wikipedia operates on a consensus basis and your input is appreciated.
Max The Dog 02:44, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

A critical test of whether something is a pseudoscience or not is to ask, "Has it developed over time?". For example, Shockley's original transistor was the size of a shoebox. Now, we fit a zillion of them onto a pin-head. So semiconductor physics is a science. On the other hand, astrology still relies on the movements of the 200 naked-eye objects that were known to Ptolemy and ignores quasars, pulsars, precession of the Earth's axis and anything else that has been discovered since the Renaissance - hence it's a pseudoscience.

So what about polygraphs? If they were 55% accurate in 1950, you'd expect them to be a darn-sight better nowadays what with all the discoveries they'd have made by now, wouldn't you? But they ain't... OK, they might use a lap-top instead of a plotter to display all the wavy lines, but they are still very far from accurate. --Oscar Bravo 10:45, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

When I first saw this page I was shocked to learn the gov't was putting so much stock in something that was complete bullshit. Then I read further and I'm annoyed to discover I have been manipulated by criticism based on hyperbole and logical fallacies. And those (few but loud) "anti-polygraph" pages read like a bunch of government-bashing agitprop. The accuracy is whatever it is. You shouldn't round it up and claim it's perfect any more than you should round it down and claim it's zero. I really don't think the manner in which "The Man" reacts (or overreacts) to results is relevant except as a social or political topic.
I had one of those multi-project science kits as a kid which had a lie detector project in it. You hold a couple wires and it measures your skin resistance, though I could never get it to work. In fact a google search for science kit and "lie detector" has about 50k hits. Should we accuse them of selling "pseudoscience kits"?
By the way, here's some talk about new technologies: [3] [4].

The accuracy is whatever it is. I think you've hit the nail on the head - nobody knows what the accuracy is! This is because there is no way to measure definatively its performance. There is no way to design an experiment that allows you to measure how well a polygraph works because, in the real world, there is no way to know if the subject is lying. What can be shown is that extremely honest people often become excited and uncomfortable by the mere act of interrgation and so fail (false positives) while skilled liars can adopt countermeasures and pass (false negatives - no spies have ever been caught by a polygraph).

As Max points out, it is rather the reliance on polygraph tests by government departments that should know better, that is pseudoscience. By the same token, the idea that magnets affect healing isn't pseudoscience (it's just wrong), but strapping a magnet onto your stiff knee-joint, is. --Oscar Bravo 12:47, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

Again, I completely disagree that politics has any bearing on the categorization of something as pseudoscience or not. In fact I'd say such lines of argument are bad for science in general. It's why nobody ever believes what anyone says about global warming or whether missile defense is possible.
As for accuracy, we don't need to pin down the exact level. We only need know it is more accurate than a random guess. Consider it from a statistical perspective. If you can construct a test where the output is correlated with the variable you tried to measure, then that is science. It does not need to be a perfect correlation. In fact it never will be due to noise and other errors. But perfection or near perfection is not remotely a requirement to be called science. Especially when dealing with human subjects. Some (such as Tom Cruise) call psychiatry a pseudoscience. I'm sure he has all kind of reasons, and psychiatry is littered with missed diagnoses and flawed methods. Is that all it takes? And yes I would say magnetic healing is pseudoscience. Science is not devices it is theories. If a theory can't be validated by experiment it isn't scientific.
I'm removing the category. A handful of equivacal statements about accuracy does not rate categorizing the method with the likes of divining rods and astrology. 22:51, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
By the way we still have no references of notable sources calling it pseudoscience, much less a significant enough number of them to not rate as undue weight to an extreme minority view. And I don't consider the above sources such as the NAS to be making that claim. The references I've looked at basically say it is effective in law enforcement but not in screening. Fine don't use it for screening. That doesn't mean throw it out with the trash. 00:12, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Who mentioned politics? I have no political agenda. Unfortunately, we seem to be drifting into that area of debate where we each fail to understand each other's argument. Let's try to get back on an even keel:

Your point about Tom Cruise and psychiatry is a good one - I think that the difference is that psychiatrists are aware of and publish the margin of error in their diagnoses (rather like any quantitive scientist will publish a result with plus/minus error-bars). The pseudoscience in the polygraph is not in the machine itself (as others have pointed out, it does measure physical things, like skin conductivity), but rather in the belief that it provides a definitive answer to the question "is this person lying?".

Regarding "notable references" - what's wrong with the list compiled by Max the Dog above?

The problem is that these machines are not used for epidemiological, Bayes theorem studies of populations, they are used to decide the future of real people in peril of incarceration or unemployment. In such critical cases, they have to be foolproof - but they ain't. --Oscar Bravo 13:24, 12 September 2006 (UTC) (BTW, you keep forgetting to sign your posts).

I don't mean politics as necessarily the federal government (though there is that aspect in some of the criticism, for example on I mean it as the attempt to criticize or control the interactions of groups of people. For example the agenda that their use to "to decide the future of real people in peril of incarceration or unemployment" should be stopped.
However besides that, I think we can agree that:
1. Polygraphs are pretty widely variant in performance, seem like more of an art than a science. And in particular have a high false positive rate which likely makes them ineffective for screening very rare people like spies: If .01% of the population is a spy and the false positive rate is 10%, then your false positives will outnumber your true positives by a factor of 1000, and you screw over a whole lot of innocent people if you misuse that info.
2. Polygraphs are probable beatable with training/practice and perhaps just ineffective against a significant segment of the population in general. Making it further unlikely that an intelligent and motivated person like a spy would fail.
3. "Polygraph people" appear to greatly exaderate their success rate since it would obviously be in their best interest (given the above two flaws), both in the testing room, and just getting more business. In fact the polygraph industry as a whole seems to either not bother or actively avoid performing scientific studies for the most part--after all their "propaganda" seems to work for them just fine.
Now where we disagree - If something has the above flaws it is pseudoscience: no. Bad science, or technicians masquerading as scientists, does not in itself rate condemnation as pseudoscience, though much of it could be called "junk science". Those flaws certainly don't help, but are not sufficient to say the science is in fact false. There is a very important counter argument, which Max the Dog's critics also allude to, and it is the successes which demonstrate the device is definately more than just a bluff. The have been several promising studies according to the FAS [5]. In law enforcement the false positive rate is not so bad relative to the guilty rate, and there the subjects are probably not as often of the level of intelligence to beat the test. Not to mention some of us have learned with our own science kits the actual reasonableness of the scientific basis for the devices. If there's something of scientific value there being exploited (however successfully), which is actually measurable experimentally, then we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I have no problem with the polemic tone of the article. We can of course even link the term pseudoscience in the text with a source, but I don't agree it fits the category.
Also, according to all the fuss over Chiropractic, the wikipedia category guidelines for inclusion are pretty strict. For something to be included it should be an good example of the category, not a weak one. 22:41, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Good response, - I think we're getting somewhere. In case you're in any doubt, I have never argued that the machines themselves are pseudoscientific (cf. magnetic water cleansers). I accept that they really do measure physical attributes like skin conductivity, heart-rate etc. I also accept that those attributes vary in many people as a result of anxiety. I even accept that most people get a bit anxious when they tell a lie. Putting it all together, I'm sure that if you had a sample of a fifty liars and fifty truth-tellers, the polygraph would have a significantly better than chance probabilty of sorting them (eg, it might assign 40 liars and 8 truth-tellers to the "Liar" group and 52 truth-tellers and 10 liars to the "Truth" group). So far, it's science.

The trouble is when you apply this science to a particular subject; we hook the butler up and ask him "Did you do it?". If he says "no", but the machine shows a "lie", is he guilty? I'm not a statistician, but if you apply the data in my imaginary experiment to the appropriate statistical method (Bayesian?) you'd find that we could only answer yes or no within a limited confidence-level. The pseudoscience comes in when the result of the machine is treated as definitive (in the refs above, there is a story about a suspect who was offered the choice - take a polygraph; if you pass, you go free, if you fail, you agree it's an admission of guilt. He failed and spent years in jail before being cleared on new evidence).

Maybe we should say "belief in the definitive efficacy of the polygraph is pseudoscience". --Oscar Bravo 06:55, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

I have no problem with that statement in the article. But to minimize the revert warring that has been with this page since the beginning, it would be best if stated as part of a sourced statement. soandso calls the polygraph pseudoscience. Or if necessary use weasel-words: Many critics have lambasted the device as more pseudoscience or junk science than actual science. I just don't think it's fair to use the "category" on the page because it implies too broad a claim to some of us readers. Plus we obviously don't want to claim every single agency and operator that uses the polygraph commits those mistakes in interpretation. 05:06, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
The gist of the argument is: the people who support the polygraph claim that it is scientifically proven (as in hard science) that polygraph is able to detect lies (I assume: with a validity of 0.95 or better, because anything below 0.9 makes it too risky to use it in law enforcement, due to having too many false positives and false negatives). A National Academies of Science study affirmed that there is no serious scientific evidence that it would be so (i.e. competent studies by social scientists, as sociologists and psychologists, peer-reviewed and published in mainstream scientific journals). Thus, the claim of the defenders of the polygraph is phony, so the polygraph is not based upon scientific evidence. This makes it pseudo-science from the very moment when an "authority" affirms that it works scientifically. Tgeorgescu 01:59, 24 September 2007 (UTC)

"Bad science, or technicians masquerading as scientists, does not in itself rate condemnation as pseudoscience", you pretty much quoted the Merriam-Webster definition of pseudoscience while trying to argue that it is not a pseudoscience. 23:57, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm sure if anything it's the definition of junk science. just like I stated in context back there... 00:31, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

Eminent scientific experts whose public comments support the categorization of polygraph testing as pseudoscience include Professor Stephen E. Fienberg of Carnegie Mellon University, who headed the National Research Council's Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph. He said, "Polygraph testing has been the gold standard, but it's obviously fool's gold." The late emeritus professor David T. Lykken, perhaps the world's foremost scientific polygraph expert before his death last year, wrote in A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector: "...the theory and methods of polygraphic lie detection are not rocket science, indeed, they are not science at all." Emeritus professor John J. Furedy of the University of Toronto maintains that "The so-called 'control' question 'test' polygraph is a technological flight of fancy. It is often used as a psychological rubber hose to induce confessions. Founded on lies, it spreads distrust while posing as the path to truth." And in a survey of scientific opinion amongst members of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, members were asked, "Would you say that the CQT (the standard polygraph technique) is based on scientifically sound psychological principles or theory?" Of the 84% of the 183 respondents with an opinion, only 36% agreed. (Iacono, William G. and David T. Lykken. (1997) "The Validity of the Lie Detector: Two Surveys of Scientific Opinion," Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 82 (1997), No. 3, pp. 426-33. Geomas 15:30, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

Sigh, I know this is just fueling the fire, its pretty easy to prove that any verbal lie test can cheated. Consider if I had the ultimate measure of lie testing, IE, god tells me whether the test subject was lying or not. Then, when I ask a question, the test subject thinks about a totally different question and answers it out loud. I can ask "What is your name?" and they can think "What's my favourite food?" and they say "Cherry Pie". And there was no lie involved. Even if the polygraph does detect lies, it would never work. (talk) 08:44, 8 March 2008 (UTC)


I just heard about how they are developing a MRI-based polygraph that's more accurate. Anyone know anything more about it?--PullUpYourSocks 13:53, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

Let's suppose that MRI lie detectors has 100% accuracy. It is of course absurd, because no device in that area has 100% validity in saying what mental states really mean. They only say what areas of the brain get activated, they don't say why, and certainly they cannot tell what one is thiking (e.g. what numbers he uses during doing mental maths calculations). In fact a validity of somewhere close to 50% is what we could expect, because when someone is asked (like in Dr. Phil show) if he sexually abused his own 3 years old daughter, the MRI registers activation of brain areas specific to intense emotions, it cannot say why that comes; simply, the question "Have you sexually abused your three years old daughter?" produces intense emotions even in people who never had any daughter whatsoever. Because it is very insulting, and in a context when you accuse somebody of doing such things is becomes a very emotional issue. The guy accused by Dr. Phil of doing that (based on polygraph tests) said "If I did that, I would shoot a bullet through my brain!" So, of course he had intense emotions about that, everybody would have had high emotions if he were in his place. Tgeorgescu 10:40, 30 July 2007 (UTC)
On it says that a MRI scan costs about USD 2000 to USD 4000, excluded all wages of the operating people and of the MDs making the diagnoses. lists costs between USD 400 and USD 2000, with a typical cost of USD 800. Tgeorgescu 10:40, 30 July 2007 (UTC)
Suppose you want to screen 500 000 people, 4 times a year for 10 years. That is USD 16 billion (USD 16000000000) at USD 800/test. I think this is too much, if we also include transport costs, wages of the operating personnel, have results interpretted by MDs and so on. Tgeorgescu 10:40, 30 July 2007 (UTC)
On psychological test on work selection: My professor of HRM, drs. R.J.A.M. Hulst, said that the validity of the most complete battery of psychological and work selection tests is about 0.5. And, there is a book by J.J.R. van Minden about psychological tests which says that (i) a battery of psychological tests is never meant to be deciding on someone's employment (and whoever says the contrary does not know his horses) (ii) the science involved in psychological tests is very rudimentary and should not attempt to predict anything, because it is most certainly not able to make any serious and valid predictions (iii) honesty, integrity and other such tests are selling cock and bull stories when they tell you they are able to detect false (faked) answers to the questions (except some very banal questions as "Have you ever told a lie?", which have no testing value). Van Minden also has books about work selection and connex subjects, and he runs a psychological and work-competence testing company. The only difference in respect to other professionals in this craft is that he has gone public about the merrits and the underachievements of his profession. He says that graphology and Rorschach tests are just as valid as consulting an astrologer or calling 1-900-PSYCHIC. Drs. Hulst says that indeed, graphology is a very reliable technique, but its validity is close to zero. Tgeorgescu 11:20, 5 August 2007 (UTC)
And, my professor of Introduction in psychology, Dr. Chr. Hamaker, said that he was Rorschach tested, and diagnosed with repressed sexuality. He said that since then he no longer believes that Rorschach tests mean anything. He was the pupil of one of the foremost Dutch sexologists. Tgeorgescu 11:36, 5 August 2007 (UTC)
That wasn't the question.
The relevant article is Lie detection#fMRI. One of the references here, however, is to India using MRI as a lie detector, but as "polygraph" does not include this technique in its scope, that reference should be removed. SamuelRiv (talk) 23:17, 16 December 2011 (UTC)

Opening Paragraph[edit]

"A polygraph or lie detector is a device which supposedly measures and records several physiological variables..."

I'm editing this sentence. It doesn't "supposedly" measure these variables, it does measure them. The supposed part comes in as to whether or not it can detect lies. 23:29, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Indeed, it measures the physiological characteristics attributted to anxiety or other sort of intense emotions. The part with polygraph will detect lies is simply between the ears of those who are uneducated enough in order to believe such craps. My two cents are that a psychopath (anti-social personality disorder) or a pathological liar or a con artist does not have intense emotions when he/she lies. Honest people, on the contrary, may feel intense emotions when their honesty and integrity is being doubted/challenged. It does not take Einstein to figure out that. Tgeorgescu 11:49, 5 August 2007 (UTC)
Actually, provided with better information, I have to recant the affirmation that polygraphs could actually measure human emotions. I have added the following to the article:
Summarizing the consensus in psychological research, professor David W. Martin, PhD, from North Carolina State University, states that people have tried to use the polygraph for measuring human emotions, but there is simply no royal road to (measuring) human emotions. Therefore, since one cannot reliably measure human emotions (especially when one has an interest in hiding his/her emotions), the idea of valid detection of truth or falsehood through measuring respiratory rate, blood volume, pulse rate and galvanic skin response is a mere pretense. Since psychologists cannot ascertain what emotions one has, polygraph professionals are not able to do that either. Tgeorgescu (talk) 15:20, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

It's not a "lie detector," shouldn't be referred to as one[edit]

A polygraph is not called a "lie detector," that is an informal street name (similar to calling Sodium Pentothal "truth serum") that is inaccurate and somewhat dangerous. If everyone matter-of-factly call polygraph tests "lie detectors" then people will actually believe that they are reliable in judging if someone is lying. I think any reference in this article, since it is supposed to be an encyclopedia, to "lie detectors" should come with a clarification such as "they are commonly referred to as 'lie detectors'" I don't want to see a polygraph actually called a lie detector, because that's an incorrect name.

I think the fact that noted skeptic James Randi (See above) has included Polygraphs in his million dollar challenge should be included in the article, as should the fact that no polygraph expert has taken this challlenge. Surely, if polygraphs worked as a detector of lies so reliably, someone would have taken Randi up on his challenge and easily collected the million dollars. No one has, because if someone were to so publicly fail with a polygraph, everyone might realize that they are a sham pseudoscience. --—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

The encyclopedia entry shouldn't necessarily promote the use of the term "lie detector", but it should at least recognize that it's colloquially refered to as that, especially in the US. (I count 4 million hits for "polygraph" and 2 million for "lie detector").
Or, maybe do like they did with truth drug... note in a new article lie detector that it's a semi-unatainable technological marvel that people are searching for, and that a polygraph test is but one of the ways to attempt to achieve that.
--Interiot 16:43, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
_ _ The article should promote neither the accurate nor the common term. We generally use the common term, regardless of any promotional effect it has. In this case a more sensitive test is
680 of about 1,240,000 for -"lie detector" polygraph
803 of about 801,000 for "lie detector" -polygraph
which suggest (in thousands) 1200*70% = 840 vs 800*80% = 640, or a 57/43 split between authors (as opposed to site-copiers) who think calling it "polygraph" means not needing to mention "lie detector", vs. vice-versa.
_ _ (BTW, "polygraph" in the Merriam-Webster OnLine Collegiate Dictionary implies it is careless usage to say "polygraph" in the sense under discussion w/o specifying the purpose of the multi-variable recording device in question, and the "lie detector" entry sees no reason to mention "polygraph" -- i.e., "polygraph" is an inaccurate term when you mean the subject of this article, polygraphs with specific integrated biometric sensors. But i digress.)
_ _ It should also be kept in mind that article titles are essentially nothing but effective navigational devices, and are an ineffective tool for informing users about inaccurate terminology: even the lead sentence, let alone an extended section (linked from the lead 'graph), is a far more powerful means for clarifying terminological problems.
_ _ IMO, the bottom line is that even if "Polygraph" as the title presented no accuracy issue, the inaccuracy of "Lie detector" as the title is a minor issue, but using Lie detector as a rdr to an article Polygraph, as at present, is confusing (bad for navigation) bcz of the ToP Dab it requires, which is inadequate in spite of being a two-way Dab: "polygraph" means
  1. stress-detecting polygraph,
  2. other recording devices,
  3. the human-powered pantograph that Jefferson used analogously with carbon paper, and
  4. Autopen (a probable trademark for a probably electrically operated device for simulating the hand-writing of signatures, only vaguely related to the Jefferson era devices; probably only the careless or clueless either call Autopen a "polygraph" or call the hand-driven lever assembly an "autopen". Whoops, the shortcomings of Autopen are off-topic here!)
I'll thus propose language with a single-arm ToP-Dab, in light of Rdr'g Polygraph to Lie detector, to Polygraph (disambiguation), and clarity in the lead sentence about the implicit false claim, e.g. "measure physiological variables commonly present under psychological stress" and something about no one claiming it's reliable without a skilled operator, and lacking conclusive scientific evidence for effectiveness.
--Jerzyt 20:51, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Two minor points:
  1. Altho it's off-topic here, note i intentionally avoid the familiar "... redirects here" wording; i will advocate a WP-wide change, at least on my talk page, if asked.
  2. The ToP Dab "For other uses, see Lie detector test (disambiguation)" is inappropriate, since that Dab page lks to only one other page, which provides no information on the song "Lie Detector Test" beyond its length, the album it appears on, and the band recording it. Until there is more to say about the song, users would be better served by dropping that portion of the ToP Dab and adding a bullet point giving that info (and lk'g the album title) within the "Popular culture" section of this talk page's article. (Lie detector test (disambiguation) should then be deleted.)
Here's what i have in mind:
"Polygraph" is an alternate title for this page about the machine for forensic investigations; for various machines with other purposes, see Polygraph (disambiguation).
A lie detector or (more formally and accurately) polygraph machine is a measuring mechanism sometimes used while interrogating a "subject" who might have a motivation to intentionally make false statements. The name "polygraph" (from the Greek for "multiple" and for "write") refers to its function of recording the variations in a handful of physiological quantities that, for many subjects, are influenced by the subject's current degree of psychological stress. At best it detects not lies, but physical quantities that may be influenced by various factors about the subject: their awareness of speaking truly or falsely, their anxiety about other matters, or their intentional efforts to influence those quantities. Further, the operator of the machine has the responsibility of making judgments, based on special training, about the implications of those quantities. The effectiveness of the machines, or lack of it, is a matter of controversy.
--Jerzyt 06:10, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, it is an object of controversy in public debate. In mainstream scientific debate, there is no controversy about it: there is simply no mainstream scientific evidence that polygraphs have any validity in detecting lies. The "controversy" is only because of those who are ignorant or willing to mislead others. If my job would depend upon the fact that the public does not understand the lack of scientific evidence about the lie detector, it would be in my best interest to play such a game. Tgeorgescu (talk) 22:04, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
Now, if the polygraph does make people confess their crimes, that's another story (scare tactics). But what you do then with people who confess crimes they have nevery committed in the real life? In the Netherlands, it was a recent scandal with a nurse confessing murdering an elderly woman she took care of; the nurse got convicted for murder, but crime journalists and some policemen say that conviction was 100% phony; the public oppinion agrees with that. The nurse confessed due to psychological torture (psychologically agressive interogation techniques; no wonder that a Turkish woman suspected of murder committed suicide as an effect of police interrogation). Another man was sentenced for murder and rape of a boy. The man confessed and got convicted. The same story as above. See for details. Tgeorgescu (talk) 22:04, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

Shouldn't there be a link to brain fingerprinting?[edit]

Shouldn't there be a link in the article on polygraphs to the article on brain fingerprinting? It seems to me the two devices are related. 06:30, 15 April 2006 (UTC)Bennett Turk

Colander + Xerox[edit]

The discussion of the "bogus pipeline" should not be in this article. The article is called "Polygraph". Either give "bogus pipeline" its own article or discuss it at Lie. --Mathew5000 21:27, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

I Agree Factoid Killer 22:11, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

2003 NAS Report[edit]

Analyst 33, please stop deleting the section regarding the NAS report to congress regarding the polygraph. If you have a suggestion to improve the section please discuss it here. Max The Dog 02:43, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Also, regarding the accuracy of a polygraph the statement that they are 90%+ accurate regarding specific issue polygraphs is misleading. This statement fails to take into account inconclusive results. Finally, the NAS found the median accuracy of a specific issue polygraph to be around 88% and varied from 70%-95%. Max The Dog 03:02, 6 September 2006 (UTC)


Someone feel like cleaning up all the weasel words in here, and getting some citations? Mikepurvis 13:13, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Aldrich Ames[edit]

This article says that Aldrich Ames passed two polygraphs while spying for the Soviet Union, but that article says that he failed three times and explained his way out of it. Not only are the numbers inconsistent, the results are opposite! Sewebster 08:00, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

I have expanded the information about Aldrich Ames under the heading "Use with espionage and security clearances." The information about Ames under "Reliability" is incomplete and redundant and probably should be eliminated or at least referred to the other. As an aside, the term "Reliability" is wrong, since most of that discussion is about validity, which is a different concept entirely. Jim (talk) 18:39, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

William Moulton Marston?[edit]

I had always thought that William Moulton Marston invented the polygraph as well as Wonder Woman - should his involvement in creating the "systolic blood-pressure test used to detect deception" be mentioned? j-beda 11:39, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

He was the first to suggest the use of systolic blood pressure as a lie detection method, but since it had only one input it could not be called a "polygraph". Nonetheless the article was extremely misleading as it was, and I have fixed. Maury 12:44, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

A few more issues[edit]

  1. The significance of the polygraph extends beyond whatever efficacy it has in exposing lies told while on the machine: fear of exposure by the machine can influence a guilty subject's strategy under interrogation, and a fictional film or TV show involved detectives Xeroxing the suspect's hand and claiming this "test" exposed the lie, inducing the suspect to confess in detail.
  2. 4 quantities are listed, but 5 needles appear in the photo -- why?
  3. The 4 quoted are really (1) chest circumference, which reflects depth of inspiration or exhalation (2) skin conductance, which reflects perspiration rate, and (3) blood pressure, of which the peak and trough values reveal systolic and diastolic pressure and the time between peaks or troughs show the heart rate. (But it may be that separate sensors (on arm and finger?) are useful for measuring the timing and the height-and-depth aspects.) What's the 5th variable, and maybe the 4th?

--Jerzyt 06:41, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Deleted paragraph[edit]

I removed this paragraph since it obviously contains some assertions that cannot be verified to Wikipedia's standards. If anybody wants to take a crack at reinserting any relevant facts they can do so, but it seems that without the unsupportable conclusions this is just a collection of trivia.

Reliance on polygraph testing has cost lives in some cases. For example, in 1984, Gary Leon Ridgway was identified by Washington State authorities as a prime suspect in the Green River murders. A polygraph examination was administered to Ridgway by the King County Sheriff's Department in the spring of that year. Ridgway passed the test and the King County Sheriff's Department concluded that he was not the Green River Killer. Nevertheless, Ridgway made a full confession to the Green River killings in 2003, after incontrovertible DNA evidence linked him to the crimes. Because King County authorities relied heavily on the veracity of polygraph testing, Ridgway was released from custody and was allowed to murder several more women. Strangely though, the King County Sheriff's Department still uses polygraph testing to screen potential employees.

Eliot 21:28, 2 January 2007 (UTC)

I personally don't find murder trivial.

External Links[edit]

I question the propriety of including the "British and European Polygraph Association" and "UKs Leading Polygraph Company" in the External Links. These sites (apparently connected, see BEPA banner on the latter) offer readers little in the way of original content, and to me their inclusion here smacks of advertising.

It might be argued, "But the American Polygraph Association website is included." Indeed, it is. But it, in contrast with the BEPA (a Google search on "British and European Polygraph Association turns up virtually no links except for itself, the evidently self-proclaimed "UKs Leading Polygraph Company," and this very article), the APA is a relatively substantial website representing a polygraph organization with a membership in the several thousands. Geomas 11:25, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

I disagree with removing the link to the British and European Polygraph Association, as it is a professional organization of people trained to use the tool, the same purpose as the APA. In addition the two organizations are at professional odds over the standards of the APA, so excluding the BEPA from an article about polygraphs, while including the APA might be seen as biased towards the APA standards of polygraph testing methods. KP Botany 17:20, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

The name "Polygraph"[edit]

Actually a Polygraph is any scientific instrument that can make a linear, graphical recording of multiple, simultaneus inputs. Hence the name "Poly"=many & "Graph"=well, quite self explanatory...

In meterology, polygraphs are used for recording of e.g. air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, air pressure.

So Polygraphs are definetely not synonymous with Lie Detectors. 18:42, 24 April 2007 (UTC)Pesu, London

Agreed!!!! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:47, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

I also strongly agree on this point. I am currently doing clinical research involving the use of polygraphy on my patients- which quite simply means that I am collecting multiple sets of data at the same time per patient (e.g. O2 consumption, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.). My study has absolutely nothing to do with "lie detection". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:26, 28 November 2012 (UTC)


The [psycho]galvanic skin response was known since the 19th century and used by Carl Gustav Jung before 1906 [6]. --Xyzt1234 16:15, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

Carl Gustav Jung does not count as mainstream scientist. Please do not understand me wrongly. I have read many books by CG, and I agree with a lot of what he says. I simply say that in the scientific community (psychology and psychiatry, including psychiatrical nosology, psychoterapy and psychopatology) he is not being seen as a mainstream scientist. CG claimed very hard that he would make a strictly empirical analysis of the archetypes. The same way, astrology is an empirical science: it does not accept claims/theories which cannot be supported by empirical evidence. But this does makes astrology a mainstream science. Simply because the astrology still has to explain accurately its causal mechanism or what cares that the correspondences between "up" and "down" (microcosmos and macrocosmos) are there. Its scientifical basis is weak, when judged from the standpoint of mainstream sciences as physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and medicine. Even when compared with the social sciences (as sociology and psychology), it does not count as mainstream science, because those sciences work in an empiric-analytic model, open for scrutiny, organized skepticism and falsification. Astrology simply wants the astrologer to assume too much beliefs which it cannot prove either true or false. Some astrological theories are open for falsification, but if you want to do astrological research, you have to accept its core beliefs as true. In the past, there were astrological research programs, which tried to turn astrology into a hard (exact) science, but they were not successful in doing that. I don't say that astrology (when properly done) is false. I simply say that it has not offered ultimate proofs of its truthfulness. It may be true, but this is not proven scientifically, if by "science" we understand mainstream science. It may be considered a metaphysical science and we may try to see if its core beliefs lead to theories which may have an objectively proven validity and reliability. But this requires simply far too much work; as much as the work that which has been done in psychology, genetics and medicine industry, till this very day, taken together. It has to work with aselect populations, with cohort studies, large statistical populations, many cultures, many countries, many types of people (including those who don't believe in it), it has to check many of its theories, it has to ignore anectodal evidence and lucky guesses, and so on down the list. Its results have to be beyond reasonable doubt, obey the 0.05 significance standard for publishing (as in social sciences), its files have to be open for peer review, and only then it may build a reputation of mainstream science. I don't think this is gonna happen soon, for there has to be nothing arbitrary, nothing which depends upon the personality of the astrologer, no fabricated data, no scientific fraud. Tgeorgescu 14:10, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

Another problem is in the third paragraph:

"...American William Marston which used blood pressure and galvanic skin response to examine German prisoners of war.[1]

A device recording both blood-pressure and galvanic skin response was invented in 1920 by Dr. John A. Larson of the University of California and first applied in law enforcement work by the Berkeley Police Department under its nationally renowned police chief August Vollmer. Further work on this device was done by Leonarde Keeler.[2]
Makenzie wrote a second paper on the concept in 1915, when finishing his undergraduate studies. He entered Harvard Law School and graduated in 1918, re-publishing his earlier work in 1917.[3]..."

Who is MAKENZIE? There is no mention of this individual anywhere in the article. Was this a typo for 'Marston'? Can somebody with appropriate contextual understanding fix this section? -- (talk) 23:42, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

messy language[edit]

Can someone please rewrite this sentence: "In his book, the "lie detector test" Marston erroneously claimed he was the first to use this method, even though many researchers were doing similar studies." I would rewrite it myself, but I can't even tell what information the author was trying to convey.

For me, it is clear enough: Marston claimed priority in this field, but he was certainly not the first author to write about this. So (besides his claim that polygraph works being phony) his claim that he had the priority about the claim over the polygraph was phony. Tgeorgescu 11:53, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

trivia section moved[edit]

I usually love trivia sections, but this one is so meaningless, often mentioning single episodes only which use a lie detector that I am removing it from the article. I am adding the info on the television show to Lie Detector (TV series)

Previously this section was hidden with <!-- -->

  • The polygraph was used in an episode of MythBusters to determine the validity of Backster's theory of primary perception. The machine was used to measure a dragon tree's stress levels in response to various stimuli.
  • The polygraph was used in The Three Stooges short "Shivering Sherlocks" When Moe asks Shemp, "Did you or did you not take that quarter out of my shoe last night"?
  • The polygraph was used in the movie Meet The Parents by Robert Deniro's character on his daughter's boyfriend (Ben Stiller).
  • The polygraph was used in the 2007 thriller Hannibal Rising.
  • The polygraph was used in its own TV program called LIE DETECTOR. Originally a local show on KTLA in the 1950's it was hosted by its creator and producer Ralph Andrews. A series of LIE DETECTOR specials were produced in the 60's and 70's and broadcast on the Metromedia stations hosted by investigative journalist Jack Anderson. In 1982 and 1983 the format of LIE DETECTOR was revived for a syndicated five day a week version that was distributed by Columbia Pictures Television, and again produced by Ralph Andrews. In 1998 Executive Producer Mark Phillips, a former employee of Ralph Andrews when Andrews was under contract to Columbia Pictures Television, obtained the rights to LIE DETECTOR and produced it for FOX Broadcasting in prime time. This version of LIE DETECTOR was hosted by former LA prosecutor Marsha Clark. One of the guests on this version of LIE DETECTOR was Detective Mark Fuhrman who appeared and passed a polygraph test regarding the planting of evidence -- namely the bloody glove in the OJ Simpson case.

    Mr. Phillips, again through his company, Mark Phillips Philms & Telephision, produced 13 one hour episodes of the format LIE DETECTOR for PAX, now called the ION Network. Some of the guests who appeared on this version of the show, hosted by Rolonda Watts were: Paula Jones, Jeff Gannon, Ben Rowling, and one of the Swift Boat Veterans. On one particularly notorious episode of the show a young former Trinity Church worker, Lonnie Ford, appears and on the polygraph accuses the Reverent Paul Crouch (head of Trinity) of luring him into a homosexual tryst at a cabin in Lake Arrowhead.

    Under dire legal threat from the Reverend Paul Crouch's attorneys, then PAX network head Bud Paxon cancelled the broadcast of that particular episode. The rights to all 13 episodes have as of September 2007 reverted back to Mark Phillips and his production company.
  • The polygraph was used in the 2001 action thriller Spy Game.
  • A computer-based polygraph is used in the 2003 spy thriller, The Recruit.
  • In the movie Harsh Times, the character Jim defeats a polygraph by tensing his muscles. This should not be possible. [1]
  • In a season four episode of The Shield, Shane Vendrell (a corrupt detective) successfully passes a polygraph examination while lying.
  • In the sixth-season Seinfeld episode "The Beard", Jerry Seinfeld is asked to take a polygraph exam at the police station by his date, a police officer who thinks he's lying about not having watched Melrose Place.
  • The punk rock band Dead Kennedys has a song called "Lie Detector" on their final album, Bedtime for Democracy, about taking a polygraph test at one's place of employment.
  • A polygraph machine is featured heavily in the music video for the second single off Taking Back Sunday's album Louder Now, "Liar (Takes One To Know One)". The band, as well as other images, are animated on the paper of the polygraph machine.
  • The staff of WNYX are forced to take polygraph tests in episode four of season four of "Newsradio" and must lie on the test to protect Lisa, who has an extensive criminal record.
  • In the episode "The Springfield Files" of the The Simpsons, Homer answers, "Yes" when asked if he understood how the polygraph test worked, causing the machine to explode. In the second part of the episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns?", Moe Szyslak also takes the test, and lies, beginning a short series of lies and alarmed corrections, whereby he gives away embarrassing personal details of his evening plans.
  • In Basic Instinct, both Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone's characters are given polygraph tests, which is beaten by the latter.
  • The polygraph was used in the movie Deceiver (1997) where Chris Penn and Michael Rooker used it in an attempt to make Tim Roth confess a murder he's accused of.
  • The polygraph was used in the 1948 film Call Northside 777.
  • In one episode of the tv sitcom Roseanne, the main character has to take a polygraph test in which she is asked, among other things, if she has ever stolen any food from the diner in which she works.
  • Most of the main characters in the 2004 crime thriller Mindhunters claim that they are able to defeat polygraph testing.
  • The polygraph was used in "Angel of Death", a May 2007 NCIS episode.
  • The polygraph was used in the 1955 noir film "The Big Combo"
  • In early seasons of The Practice, Bobby rather frequently uses a polygraph to determine if clients of his are lying to him, claiming that despite what is commonly believed, the device is extremely accurate.

Travb (talk) 02:19, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

I would add this directly, but I wanted opinions first. A polygraph was used on a suspect in Criminal Minds season 4 episode 20 "Conflicted". I'm not sure if they were portraying the test accurately as they asked a math question and came up with a lie because the suspect had Dissociative Identity Disorder and they somehow determined that the alternate persona knew the answer to the math question but the main personality did not. It seemed bogus to me. Do they actually ask math questions like that? Later in season 6 episode 2 "JJ" they had the suspects take polygraph tests and they both passed. Also, the Game show "Love Triangle" (IMDB frequently uses a polygraph test to attempt to determine whether or not the love interests (or potential love interests) are being truthful when asked questions about their relationship with the main guest. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:11, 21 April 2012 (UTC)


There seems to be a concerted effort by persons associated with the site to repeatedly modify the Wikipedia polygraph entry to register opinions in opposition to polygraph, to include only narrowly gathered facts in opposition to polygraph, and to delete any facts supporting validity and reliability of polygraph. This is supposed to be a neutral forum. While it is understandable that some have strong feelings against polygraph, this is not an appropriate place to voice them. Jim (talk) 23:15, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

Your edits removed several sourced statements, including a ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. You replaced them with un-sourced statements. There’s nothing political about insisting that citations from courts and scientists remain in the article. There’s also nothing political about removing a refuting statement when it is un-sourced. Also a statement from the American Polygraph Association, who has a vested interest in polygraphy, even if there was a citation, is hardly a convincing refutation of the United States Supreme Court, the United States Congress and the National Academy of Sciences. (talk) 01:05, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Since several of the "sources" are, that can hardly be regarded as neutral. You obviously have a point of view. This is not the place to express it. It is possible to find a source for virtually any point of view. That does not validate the view. We don't quote the number of deaths from appendectomies when we discuss medicine, and then argue against appendectomies. Jim (talk) 02:00, 6 December 2007 (UTC) isn't one of the sources you removed. However, you did remove sources including:,,, Washington Post,,, and three apparently mainstream books. And it looks to me that your edits have been kind of indiscriminate. If you are objecting to the stuff, why wouldn't you remove that? I reverted, and note that you have broken the WP:3RR rule. MilesAgain (talk) 02:44, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Here's the detailed critique you need. Statement: While some people believe that polygraph tests are reliable, there is little scientific evidence to support this claim.

Critique: There are a large number of studies that do support this claim. Reliablility in fact is even higher than validity. Be careful of your terms. If you want to pepper the entry with them, I'll be happy to gather a bunch for you.

Statement: For example, while some claim the test to be accurate in 90% - 95% of the cases, critics charge that rather than a "test", the method amounts to an inherently unstandardizable interrogation technique whose accuracy cannot be established.

Critique: The expressions "some claim" and "critics charge" are editorial statements that express a point of view. In any event, neither of these statements are sourced, so they both ought to be removed.

Statement: A 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the test's average accuracy at about 61%, a little better than chance.

Critique: The reputable source quoted for this is USA Today. More to the point, what relevance does the estimate of 421 psychologists have, since polygraph is not a branch of psychology? Should we also include the "estimate" of 421 veterinarians, or deep sea divers?

Statement: Critics also argue that even given high estimates of the polygraph's accuracy a significant number of subjects (e.g. 10% given a 90% accuracy) will appear to be lying, and would unfairly suffer the consequences of "failing" the polygraph.

Critique: The implication from "unfairly" and the general thrust of this remark is that polygraph is evil and will hurt innocent people. The opposite point of view would state that since 90% of the results are correct a huge number of people are helped. That kind of remark shouldn't be here either.

Statement: In the 1998 Supreme Court case, United States v. Scheffer, the majority stated that “There is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable” and “Unlike other expert witnesses who testify about factual matters outside the jurors' knowledge, such as the analysis of fingerprints, ballistics, or DNA found at a crime scene, a polygraph expert can supply the jury only with another opinion...”.

Critique: If we're going to talk about the Scheffer case, let's put it in context. It was a military court martial in which the issue was whether the President could issue an order banning the use of polygraph in such proceedings. The defendant had passed his polygraph examination and was seeking admissibilty in his defense. The quoted text from the opinion is correct, as far as it goes. The court's opinion applies only to courts martial, which should be clarified if we're going to use this cite. For balance, we should add from Justice Stevens' dissent: "There are a host of studies that place the reliability of polygraph tests at 85% to 90%. While critics of the polygraph argue that accuracy is much lower, even the studies cited by the critics place polygraph accuracy at 70%.21 Moreover, to the extent that the polygraph errs, studies have repeatedly shown that the polygraph is more likely to find innocent people guilty than vice versa. Thus, exculpatory polygraphs — like the one in this case — are likely to be more reliable than inculpatory ones." And: "There is no legal requirement that expert testimony must satisfy a particular degree of reliability to be admissible. Expert testimony about a defendant's 'future dangerousness' to determine his eligibility for the death penalty, even if wrong 'most of the time,' is routinely admitted. Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 898-901 (1983). Studies indicate that handwriting analysis, and even fingerprint identifications, may be less trustworthy than polygraph evidence in certain cases. And, of course, even highly dubious eyewitness testimony is, and should be, admitted and tested in the crucible of cross-examination."

Statement: Also, in 2005 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that “polygraphy did not enjoy general acceptance from the scientific community”.

Critique: If we're going to quote one opinion against polygraph from one federal district, then let's put in an equal number of quotes from other court opinions that support polygraph. The Scheffer case previously cited came from the Supreme Court, and the majority opinion reiterated, in citing precedents, that "Those opinions correctly observe that the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of civil and criminal cases in the federal courts do not contain any blanket prohibition against the admissibility of polygraph evidence." And "Individual jurisdictions therefore may reasonably reach differing conclusions as to whether polygraph evidence should be admitted."

Statement: double-agent Aldrich Ames, who passed two polygraph tests

Critique: The source for this is Aldrich Ames, not exactly reliable. The FBI says the CIA messed up and didn't accept their own test results. In any case, at the very least this statement needs to be qualified with something like "Ames, who says he passed..."

Statement: Other spies who passed the polygraph include Karl Koecher,[17] Ana Belen Montes,[18] and Leandro Aragoncillo.

Critique: I confess that I'm not familiar with these three. The Koecher source from the Washington Post is from 1988 and not immediately available. The Montes source no longer exists on the linked web site. Regardless, what is the relevance of this observation in a neutral exposition of polygraph? Remove it or balance it with an equal number of references to people whose innocence or guilt was established when polygraph worked. We know that O.J. Simpson failed a polygraph examination, based on testimony in his civil trial. It would make as much sense to include that here.

Statement: Noted pseudoscience debunker Bob Park recently commented, "The polygraph, in fact, has ruined careers, but never uncovered a single spy."

Critique: Come on, now. Bob Park is a blogger, who quotes no source for that opinion because it is nothing more than that. What is a "noted pseudoscience debunker"? Is this the level of validation that Wikipedia allows for articles? The fact is that the feds are so secretive we don't know how many spies have been caught. An official acknowledgment of that failure from the FBI, CIA, or NSA would be validation, but we don't have that.

Statement: It is interesting to note that, so far, no scientific study has been published that offers convincing evidence of the validity of the polygraph test.

Critique: This is just plain wrong. What constitutes "convincing evidence?" There are countless peer-reviewed scientific journals that have published independently conducted research about the validity and reliability of polygraph. Placed where it is after a quote from the NAS, this almost appears to be the conclusion of NAS, which it is not. If we want to quote the NAS study, we should include the statement from that report: "specific-incident polygraph tests can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates well above chance, though well below perfection." Jim (talk) 04:09, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

You seem to have a very strong opinion on the matter, but you are not allowed to arbitrarily remove referenced material just you don’t like what it says, or that you believe it to be in error. If something were added to the article that was made up, then you may remove it. My suggestion is this, why don’t you expand the article, add an additional paragraph refuting the claims in the disputed one. Keep in mind, you’re not able to use your own opinions as you have here, any refutation must be cited. For example, you want more federal court references here that hold an opposite view on polygraphs, I wholeheartedly agree, if they exist, they belong here. You must find these cases, as others have done, and quote and cite them here so that a reader can click on a link and read the court opinion for himself. You claim that the FBI says that Aldrich Ames avioded detection for so long because the CIA made mistakes, put that in the article and cite it. This way the reader can read both, check the sources of both and make his own decision. This is what Wikipedia is all about, not removing sourced material just because one person believes it to be wrong or just doesn’t like what it says, that’s the very definition of censorship. It’s actually quite fun doing the research, gathering all the sources, and then expanding an article with new, verifiable information. (talk) 16:36, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the tips. I don't have much experience with editing Wikipedia entries. I admit I was offended by the obvious bias of the material that appeared. Thanks, too, for the changes that have been made. Jim (talk) 18:31, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Under the heading "2003 National Academy of Sciences Report" it is stated: "It is interesting to note that, so far, no scientific study has been published that offers convincing evidence of the validity of the polygraph test." This is not quoted from the NAS report and is an opinion -- not a fact -- that hinges on the phrase "convincing evidence". There are numerous studies reporting on the validity of polygraph testing. They may not all agree on what that validity is, but they all agree that it is significantly greater than chance. Even the NAS report states: "specific-incident polygraph tests can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates well above chance, though well below perfection." Jim (talk) 16:27, 7 December 2007 (UTC)

65% is well above chance, is this convincing evidence to you? Would you put your job on the line with a 35% failure rate? Right after this the article again quotes the NAS report that even in these 57 studies the reported validity is “almost certainly higher than actual polygraph accuracy of specific-incident testing in the field.” Also note the quote from the NAS conclusions, that there is “little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy.” Does this convince you of its validity? I’m certianly not convinced, of course, I’m not everybody. All of these things support the statement that you’re objecting to. However, I tend to agree that maybe this statement should be removed. We’ll let each reader decided for himself whether or not convincing evidence exists. Remember that Wikipedia operates on consensus, the fact that this statement has been in the article well over a year speaks with a very loud voice, other editors may replace it, indicating that a consensus of readers agree that convincing evidence does not exist. (talk) 18:10, 7 December 2007 (UTC)

No - you jump to conclusions when you believe that it hasn't been edited out and therefore there is a "consensus of readers." This article is only posting antipolygraph's point of views. Where is the reader to find conflicting points of view? How many references in the list of references for this article link to a conflicting point of view? Many people who use Wikipedia do not have prior knowledge about the subject they are researching. They assume it is "right." Wikipedia is about posting facts not posting opinions that have major "consensus" from readers. (talk) 05:49, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

google: The FBI uses polygraphs to eliminate suspects[edit]

google: Stoelting Ultrascribe polygraph —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:56, 22 April 2008 (UTC) "Polygraph" ... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:15, 5 March 2011 (UTC)

Source for Canada Claim[edit]

The claim "Much of it's success is due to the professional and intense training that Canadian polygraphists are given, provided by the Canadian Police College in Ottawa, Ontario. Training is provided to polygraphists from Canada as well as several other countries from across the world. Canadian polygraphists are considered to be among the best in the world," under the Canada section, needs a source if one can be provided. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:05, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Polygraphs are simply not reliable[edit]

Research conclusively show that polygraphs are not reliable. A summary has been published by Anders Eriksson and Francisco Lacerda (Stockholm University). However, some companies (in particular Nemesysco Limited) try to silence these researchers and their objective findings. The article can be found here so read for yourself:

If there is scientific evidence that polygraphs work, that should be published.

The article referred to above is about voice stress analysis, not polygraph, even though the translation of the article used the term polygraph. Nemesysco is an Israeli company that has sold voice stress analysis widely in England, where it is being tested in pilot projects for use in validating public assistance claims. It has also been used by the insurance industry in England to check claims. Nemesysco does not manufacture or market polygraphs. Jim (talk) 19:25, 11 May 2009 (UTC)


There is something called a false positive and a false negative, and tests have rates of these. "Not reliable" is a totally unscientific term with absolutely no meaning. If you are saying that the test is imperfect, then it joins many many other tests in being imperfect. If you are saying it is totally useless and no better than chance, then there is research that would disagree. Let's just say what we think the rates of results are and leave it at that. No need to report those rates and then dis them. Let's just go with the most comprehensive and scientific research results: " specific-incident polygraph testing, in a person untrained in counter-measures, could discern the truth at 'a level greater than chance, yet short of perfection'. " (talk) 10:54, 18 March 2013 (UTC)artman772000

The National Academy of Sciences report says the polygraph is pseudoscience, period. Tgeorgescu (talk) 17:40, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

Please cite the exact reference for that including the page number, Tgeorgescu. If you are referencing "The Polygraph and Lie Detection" please note that I just did a keyword search using the search box on and found that the word "pseudoscience" was not used anywhere in the entire report (which the National Academy of Sciences was only one contributor). (talk) 05:35, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

facial expression[edit]

I remeber reading an article nearly 10 years ago about a then new polygraph technique that used facial expression that test showed to be a much more efficient way of testing. since then I have heard about this test a couple more times. I could not find any information about it in this article and was wondering if anybody had any reliable information about it. I was also wondering since that was 8 to 10 years ago if anyone knew if or why this technology is not being used? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:44, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

According to many of the "anti-polygraph" sources, the polygraph isn't and wasn't ever designed to be an actual lie detector, instead simply an interrogation tool to assist the polygraph examiner in using psychological ploys to extract information or admissions from the examinee. If this is true, then that may be why the facial expression system hasn't been developed or implemented. Cla68 (talk) 06:17, 6 April 2009 (UTC)
Well, I saw a Discovery or National Geographic documentary about a police psychologists training police interrogators into recognizing facial expression which persons faced with a relevant question display for a fraction of a second. Such instructor showed a video with a crime suspect during his trial, displaying for a small fraction of a second a certain facial expression, and the instructor said: this is an indication that he lied. I am personally skeptic of the predictive value of such claim, since people could display very short facial expression when a statement disgusts them or offends their sensibility, and also purely random facial expressions could be interpreted as significant. Or course, during an interrogation, this could give the interrogator a hunch of whether the suspect is really guilty. However, police work should be based on evidence, not on hunches. Hunches may have heuristic value, but you cannot convict a suspect because you have this hunch. Tgeorgescu (talk) 08:09, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

dead links[edit]

Under "Reliability" it reads: Polygraph tests have also been criticized for failing to trap known spies such as double-agent Aldrich Ames, who passed two polygraph tests while spying for the Soviet Union.[28][30] Other spies who passed the polygraph include Karl Koecher,[31] Ana Belen Montes,[32]

The link to Ana Belen Montes is dead. It now reads: Bachelet, Pablo (October 13, 2006). "Book outlines how spy exposed U.S. intelligence secrets to Cuba". McClatchey Washington Bureau. "She first came under U.S. suspicion in 1994, when Cuba detected a highly secret electronic surveillance system. Montes took a polygraph test and passed it."

Jim (talk) 18:04, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

personal opinion derived from DVD[edit]

I removed the following which appears to consist of the contributor's conclusions based upon what he/she heard on a DVD. There are no direct quotes and the opening statement "summarizing the consensus in psychological research" can hardly be accepted since Dr. Martin has done no published research in truth and deception, as have the other sources cited in this article. If Dr. Martin claims a "consensus" he should be quoted directly with supporting data. The closing statement, "polygraph professionals are not able to do that either" is unattributed and appears to be the contributor's opinion. Here's the paragraph as it appeared:

Summarizing the consensus in psychological research, professor David W. Martin, PhD, from North Carolina State University, states that people have tried to use the polygraph for measuring human emotions, but there is simply no royal road to (measuring) human emotions.[2] Therefore, since one cannot reliably measure human emotions (especially when one has an interest in hiding his/her emotions), the idea of valid detection of truth or falsehood through measuring respiratory rate, blood volume, pulse rate and galvanic skin response is a mere pretense. Since psychologists cannot ascertain what emotions one has,[3] polygraph professionals are not able to do that either. Jim (talk) 18:12, 3 October 2009 (UTC)

Ok, I have rephrased the sentence in order to avoid speculation. About Professor Martin not knowing what he is speaking about, you are certainly misguided to attack his competence. He stated that in psychology there is no royal road to emotion, i.e. that psychologists have no way to know for sure what for emotions one has. This is a rendering of the scientific consensus. He stated that the polygraph has been proposed as a royal road to emotion, but it failed to provide such royal road. So, with or without polygraph, in psychology there is no royal road to emotion. This is also part of scientific consensus. He was trusted by the Teaching Company as a top scholar to introduce people to psychology, and it would be an error to consider that he ignores the 101 of what he is teaching at the university. Tgeorgescu (talk) 17:30, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
  1. ^
  2. ^ Psychology of Human Behavior The Teaching Company, course No. 1620 taught by David W. Martin, lesson 19.
  3. ^ Professor Martin considers an urban legend the idea that psychologists could read people's minds or look inside their heads and know their thoughts/emotions, cf. lesson 1 of the same course.

Nice, materials at the website you cite (#1) have no connection to Boise State University. Ironically, Charles Honts (the "director" of the website) runs in the same circles as Mr. Iacono and was referenced by him in his paper. See my comments under "Bias." (talk) 05:23, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

Lie to me[edit]

In TV series "Lie to me" polygraphs are also highly criticized in at least one episode and later one of the characters manages to give false testimony and fool the polygraph. While it isn't the whole series I consider that this deserves to be mentioned for the whole series being about detecting people's lies and, furthermore, being quite serious and a lot of its material is based on scientific research. (Non-native speaker here, sorry for any mistakes, etc.) -- (talk) 15:13, 8 July 2010 (UTC)


The article needs to be sub-categorized at least through a disambiguation page as a primary meaning of the word in no means specifically related to a device utilized in police practice and should be explained in the main article of Polygraph of that instance. The article about this device is not non-related to any other polygraph machines and should be somehow connected, not differentiated. Aleksandr Grigoryev (talk) 17:29, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

American Polygraph Association section is out of context[edit]

I've removed the subsection about the APA, since it's in the section "Admissibility of polygraphs in court", but it doesn't mention anything relevant to the section, and is just a short blurb about the APA.

JGDross (talk) 12:44, 13 September 2011 (UTC)


Is the article entirely neutral? Reading through the whole article, it seems like it is leaning towards the unreliability of the polygraph, and how it is inaccurate. I see no where in the article where the results and the accuracy are presented in a positive manner. Instead it all appears to just be the negative point of view. I am not saying anything against the negative point of view, without that, the article would still be imbalanced and lean towards the positive. It needs a complete view of both sides, in a neutral appearance. Dusty777 (talk) 16:22, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Being neutral means reflecting accuratedly what reliable sources say about the topic, see Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view#Due_and_undue_weight.
Take a look at Polygraph#Validity, the best reliable sources (scientific tests, statements by American Psychological Association, etc) say that polygraphs are unreliable and unaccurate, and can be tricked with a bit of training. Our article should reflect that. If else, our article makes polygraphs look better than they really are.... --Enric Naval (talk) 18:28, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Sorry, I have been looking at reliable sources - even "The Polygraph and Lie Detecting" - so frequently cited in this article - does an unbiased job of reporting the pros and cons of the subject. This article reads as if it were written by someone with an axe to bear against the polygraph. There is a difference when someone is reporting the facts and the facts are all negative and when someone is skewing information so that it paints a more negative picture. If anyone on here wants an unbiased view of the polygraph, how it works, and what its faults are I suggest reading "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Forensics." Perhaps the author(s) of this polygraph article could take a look at what "unbiased" is really about. (talk) 05:08, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

Invented: clarification needed[edit]

At a cursory reading of the introduction to the article, I'm not sure how appropriate the word "invented" is in this contex. I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:42, 29 January 2012 (UTC)

There is no ONE polygraph[edit]

The article does not distinguish between different methods. There is hart rate, skin conductivity, facial blood flow, EEG, answer delay, functional magnetic resonance imaging, ... To lie consciously takes an effort. Ones they actually look into the brain in 4D this effort will become visible. --Mo — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:23, 7 June 2012 (UTC)

Conflation of Polygraph and Comparison Question Test[edit]

Throughout this article, the polygraph (device) seems to be conflated with the Comparison Question Test (questioning method), which relies on the participant's emotional reaction to their question response (i.e. lying). This is very different from the Concealed Information Test (a.k.a. Guilty Knowledge Test), which relies on an orienting response to the questions themselves. I mention this because many of the criticisms levied against the polygraph in this article are actually criticisms against the Comparison Question Test. The Concealed Information Test is generally considered to be more valid among researchers and foreign (e.g. Japanese) law enforcement, since it doesn't rely on an emotional response. I'm wondering if someone with time and resources (and experience editing articles) could maybe rewrite portions of the article to better distinguish the polygraph (the device) from its various questioning methods. (talk) 12:53, 18 July 2012 (UTC) Luke

Polygraph use in India[edit]

BBC News have published an article, Lie-detector tests take off in India about the increased use of polygraphs in India's employment industry. Possibly a useful source for anyone wanting to update the section about polygraph use in that country ~dom Kaos~ (talk) 19:52, 13 September 2012 (UTC)

why does "lie detector" redirect to "polygraph?"[edit]

there are plenty of other forms of lie detection (talk) 19:12, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

Because that is the more specific topic for the term "lie detector". It is a device whose entire raison d'être of the device is lie detection. I suspect those wanting to avoid redirects to that topic have the POV that the "science" supporting the device's use is really "pseudoscience", but that is not a valid reason for not redirecting to the device. Do you have any alternatives for "lie detector"? Are there professional experts whose job title is Lie Detector? You wouldn't redirect firefighter to firefighting wouild you? Wbm1058 (talk) 16:03, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
If a polygraph examiner were called a "lie detector", then we might need to disambiguate between the machine and its operator. Wbm1058 (talk) 16:53, 13 August 2014 (UTC)


I was expecting to get a sense of how this device works, instead, I'm pelted with the pseudoscience crap. I the polygraph was really pseudoscience, and the results were random nonsense, then why that spy had to ask the Soviets for instructions on how to beat it? Isn't that inconsistent? (talk) 02:42, 26 December 2012 (UTC)

Feel free to research the topic. Have seen a few concerning papers which figure that it is primarily used as a psychological technique. Ie if a person believes you can read their mind than they are more likely to tell the truth. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) (if I write on your page reply on mine) 02:51, 26 December 2012 (UTC)

Yes I agree. There is a negative and inconsistent tone and thread throughout: 1. Polygraph is pseudoscience that does not work. (Well this would mean that its results provide NO information about the probability of someone lying). 2. And furthermore, with training it can be beat. Um, what? 3. And furthermore, even if it was 80% right, that would be of no use at all. Um, really? Never?

It sounds like someone just arguing against it and casting dispersions rather than seeking the truth. If this is true: "specific-incident polygraph testing, in a person untrained in counter-measures, could discern the truth at 'a level greater than chance, yet short of perfection'." Then it is a valid but imperfect test. Period. So, it's not pseudoscience. TB testing has false positives and false negatives. There is a rate of type I and type II errors. Just report what we think those rates are and leave it at that. Dont then go on to dis those rates. And the article cited does not actually say it is viewed as "pseudoscience", it says it should be viewed dubiously and should not be admissable in court. To summarize this as 'pseudoscience' is lame. I've noticed wiki is so enamored with that word pseudoscience and over-applies it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:44, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

National Academy of Sciences[edit]

There are several references to the article "The Polygraph and Lie Detection" (Note 13), plus a number of quotes which are presumably from that article, but only one of these has a page number - the last one, which is page 212. I wanted to add the missing numbers, but the link to the article only shows one page at a time, making searching slow and tedious, especially seeing there are over 200 pages to go through. So I only looked at a few pages in Chapter 8 (Conclusions and Recommendations), and only found two of the quotes, the last two.

First quote: "unreliable, unscientific and biased". I didn’t find that.

Second quote: "a level greater than chance, yet short of perfection". I found only a similar statement, on page 214: "at rates well above chance, though well below perfection".

Third quote: the levels of accuracy shown in these studies "are almost certainly higher than actual polygraph accuracy of specific-incident testing in the field". Again, I found only a similar statement, on page 215: "Because actual screening applications involve considerably more ambiguity for the examinee and in determining truth than arises in specific-incident studies, polygraph accuracy for screening purposes is almost certainly lower than what can be achieved by specific-incident polygraph tests in the field."

Fourth quote: "Its accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies." Once again, I only found a similar statement, on page 215: "we have seen no indication of a clear and stable agreement on what criteria are used in practice for assessing the accuracy of security screening polygraph tests in any federal agency that uses the tests".

Fifth quote: "...may have some utility". I found that exact statement, and it’s on page 214.

Sixth quote: "little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy." That is the only one I found which is both exact and has the page number (212).

I am not claiming that the wording of the other quotes in the Wikipedia article is incorrect: they probably come from the earlier, detailed chapters, but it would take too long for me to find them. So can somebody please provide that missing information.TheTruth-2009 (talk) 13:14, 28 July 2013 (UTC)

You are right, some of the quotes mentioned above cannot be found in ISBN 0-309-08436-9. However, as,+unscientific+and+biased shows, such quotes are repeated in all kind of sources (academic presentations, press, blogs, etc.). Therefore, multiple reliable sources attribute them to NAS, so they have to originate in different publications or press releases. However, if they are not seen as quotes, but as an abstract, they render fairly well the ideas expressed in ISBN 0-309-08436-9. Tgeorgescu (talk) 14:19, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
As far as I can see the searched quote was introduced at [7]. Tgeorgescu (talk) 14:53, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for all that information, I appreciate the trouble you took. It is reassuring that there is support for the validity of the quotes. Nevertheless, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and this is a disputed subject, so the references should be good ones, accurate and complete, so they are readily verifiable wherever possible. I have placed a message on Ctka’s talk page (the editor responsible for the quotes in your link), but it seems that the other quotes predate him/her.TheTruth-2009 (talk) 06:22, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
If you need a source, it could be a quote from Rebecca Kanable, "The truth surrounding lie detection technology", Law Enforcement Technology, August 2010, . However, the quote was introduced in 2008, without mentioning the source, so that's kind of anachronism. Tgeorgescu (talk) 20:36, 4 August 2013 (UTC)

real reason FBI/CIA and others use lie detectors is obvious[edit]

The polygraph is obviously a poor instrument with a likely huge false positive rate.

I have family that took them for jobs and failed over ridiculous things. For instance, a milque toast middle aged housewife being told that the test indicated she was likely a foreign spy trying to bring down the US gov't.

The FBI and others use it as a means of psychological warfare/pressure to induce confession and mess with people.

Also, for jobs it is an easy way to eliminate folks from a large pool or eliminate folks for a seemingly "good" reason when really the reason lies elsewhere.

What I hate is that the popular culture believes in these things and idiots are willing to go on Maury Povich show and take a lie detector test and have their reputations ruined. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:27, 26 April 2014 (UTC)

Ducking Stool[edit]

The “See also” link to the “ducking stool” has been removed, with the reason given as: “i don't see much relevance between modern polygraphs and a clearly ineffective medieval device for testing for witches”.

I don’t think that either the lack of modernity (technological sophistication?) or the ineffectiveness of the ducking stool method is sufficient reason for removing the link. I think a stronger reason is that it apparently wasn’t used to detect lies. If, instead of being described as a device for testing for witches, it was described as a device for testing if suspects were lying about whether they were witches, then it could justifiably be included in the History section as a primitive early attempt at lie detection.TheTruth-2009 (talk) 07:25, 4 June 2014 (UTC)

Notable cases[edit]

Evidence that David Westerfield’s test was flawed has been removed, with the reason “trim unnecessary detail”. Removing all the evidence is more than just trimming. While I appreciate that it was also watered down to he “allegedly” failed, when the claim is a greater than 99% chance he failed, and when it apparently had a disproportionately strong influence on the police, I think something much stronger is needed. Also, I googled “david westerfield polygraph” and got 34,800 hits, so this aspect is an important part of a high-profile case. And the deleted evidence is actual examples of dangers of polygraphs.TheTruth-2009 (talk) 12:28, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

All that argumentation does not belong here, per WP:UNDUE. This article is about the polygraph test, not about David Westerfield. Each of the examples given under "notable cases" is a paragraph summary consisting of a few sentences. That is what the David Westerfield listing should be also. --MelanieN (talk) 15:11, 16 July 2014 (UTC)
P.S. I'm not even sure why he is listed here under "notable cases"; there's nothing particularly notable or illustrative about his case. In the first place, the polygraph played a trivial role in his case. He was the prime suspect even before he was polygraphed; the decision to charge him was made by the DA, not the police (DAs are generally pretty skeptical of polygraphs, or at least tend to disregard them knowing they are inadmissible, while the police tend to believe in them); the jury was convinced of his guilt by evidence which did not include any mention of the polygraph. And in the second place, his case does not illustrate any particular point about polygraphs. He "failed" his polygraph and was subsequently convicted; that happens in thousands of cases; nothing unusual about his. --MelanieN (talk) 16:57, 16 July 2014 (UTC)


This article is extremely biased against the polygraph. It uses as its primary source "The Polygraph and Lie Detection" (2003) and articles that specifically refer to this source. Sadly, the author of this article and many articles referenced that refer to the National Research Council report neglected to read all of it. If you start from page one, you will see that the report was not investigating the use of the polygraph during a crime investigation. Instead, this report was investigating its use for employment purposes. All you have to do is read pages 1 and 2 of the cited document and this is clear. They go on to state that it was difficult to even collect evidence because most of the evidence is event-specific [read crime] evidence that did not pertain to the purpose of their paper. In other words, the purpose of the paper was not to examine the evidence for the use of a polygraph in criminal investigations. However, they state on page 4 "we conclude that ... specific-incident polygraph tests can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates well above chance, though well below perfection." [This is not put in quotations in the article but is a direct quote.] In other words, even though they weren't specifically researching it, the National Research Council believed that polygraphs worked in identifying criminals when used for specific crimes, but needed some improvement. That this statement was made so early in the report, should show that the report was not intended to analyze crime polygraphs. Two improvements have been made on the polygraph, but these are nowhere mentioned in the Wikipedia polygraph article (blood to extremities and motion detectors). In addition, the author mis-cites this quote (giving credit to the NAS AND saying it was done in 2002) within the first section of the article. Finally, the 2009 report of the National Research Council mentions polygraph tests in passing as if they are clearly a part of forensic science and not 'pseudoscience,' "A smaller number are involved in other forensic functions, such as the analysis of digital evidence, footwear, tire track impressions, firearms, forensic art, questioned documents, polygraph tests, and dental evidence" (my emphasis). In fact, in a later chapter, it states that it will not be addressing the changes that need to be made with the polygraph because those were already addressed in the 2003 report. In this context, the 2003 report does not seem to be the key report that "debunks" the polygraph as pseudoscience, but in fact makes suggestions to improve the reliability of the science.

This Wikipedia article goes on to continually make blanket statements that assume the paper supports the Wikipedia author's hypothesis that the polygraph is pseudo-science, including adding it after the statement that most scientists see it as pseudoscience. In fact, if we begin to examine all the cited resources for the Wikipedia article, we discover that the ones stating that polygraphs are ineffective are not talking about event-specific use for the most part. For example, let's move on to the next cited work about sex offenders. It makes sense that if the polygraph is limited to event-specific questioning that it would be impossible to ask a known sex-offender if he or she had offended again. These questions are open ended and not event specific, therefore, the polygraph admittedly will not work. The next article states that telling a sex-offender he will have to submit to periodic lie detector tests will not prevent him from re-offending. Neither of these say anything about the accuracy of the polygraph in investigating a crime - both are talking about using the polygraph as therapy. Still, they are placed in the same paragraph with the statement that "there is no evidence of effectiveness." This statement is credited to the same report that I quoted above that said polygraphs were effective, but not 100% effective. That seems like evidence of effectiveness to me.

It is also very disconcerting that nearly all of the references and viewpoints found in this Wikipedia article can be found on This is biased coverage at its worst. In fact, the claim that the polygraph is "pseudoscience" is based upon one article not found anywhere else on the web: Iacono, W.G. "Forensic 'lie detection': Procedures without scientific basis," Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, Vol. 1 (2001), No. 1, pp. 75-86. Mr. Iacono's article supposedly supports the statement in the Wikipedia polygraph article: "In 2001, a significant fraction of the scientific community considered polygraphy to be pseudoscience."

Mr. Iacono's article is, in itself, biased. In fact, of the 17 references that Mr. Iacono cites in his article, he is the author of almost half (eight citations bear his name as at least one of the authors). Less than 50% of all the authors cited for the article were unique. If a "significant fraction" of the scientific community believes the polygraph to be pseudoscience, one would expect he could find many scientists to cite on the matter - yet he finds mainly himself and his co-workers. Perhaps even more disturbing is that all these cited articles were written prior to the 21st century. Granted, Mr. Iacono believed in the polygraph's effectiveness - he found that even giving people drugs like Ritalin did not affect the effectiveness of the test However, he (and most of the people cited in his paper) preferred the GKT version of questioning which was impractical in most investigations But apparently those antipolygraph people who wrote this Wikipedia article didn't take the time to actually do the research. Just as they left out Keeler's important scientific research where he went to prisons, asked questions about crimes of prisoners, and then compared their answers with the facts he found in the trial record. That was how the polygraph exam was originally created.

While the Wikipedia author believes that undetermined tests should be counted against statistics, I think it needs mentioning that these tests must be repeated and are then determined. Also, the author neglects to mention that if a person believes the polygraph they took produced inaccurate results, they can request a second one be performed by another examiner. Irreverent-Reverent questioning is very outdated and not used anymore, but the author makes it seem as if this is standard procedure. The author mentions CQT without citing the source (probably Mr. Iacono since his paper solely dealt with this type of interrogation being poor).

Sadly, there are many more issues with this article, but the bottom line is that the bias needs to be removed. I have read 4 books that contained information about the polygraph and visited several websites. All the books presented the pros and cons in an unbiased manner. I learned more about the polygraph from all the other sources than what I learned in this author's lengthy diatribe. I want to draw my own conclusions - not have someone tell me what I need to believe because they believe it. (talk) 04:50, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

Nobody denies that the polygraph could be used as prop in order to extract confessions, so it has real, proven efficacy in fighting crime. The problem, however, is that suspects under pressure often make false confessions, leading to unjust imprisonment or unjust death penalty. If you look at NAS statistics, they have estimates for identifying spies vs. false positives. There is no reason to believe that the polygraph would be more accurate in evaluating the truthfulness during crime interrogations than in identifying spies. So, it is more or less like flipping coins in order to decide whether the suspect told the truth (even if its accuracy may be greater than 50%). Tgeorgescu (talk) 19:15, 5 August 2014 (UTC)
User:, your repeated references to the "article's author" reveal a misunderstanding about how Wikipedia works. A Wikipedia article is not the work of a single author; it is a crowd-sourced product by many individual editors. It takes the form it currently has based on consensus among those editors, which in turn is based on what we find in reliable sources. The "reliable sources" criterion gives more weight to scientific or peer-reviewed studies, less weight to popular press reporting, and no weight at all to websites and random books one might have read.
FYI, according to the statistics for this page, it was first created in 2002. In the 12 years since then, it has been edited by more than 900 people, and no one person contributed even as much as 7% of the article's content. In its current form it is pretty stable, and more than 100 people have it on their watchlist, so that they will know if changes are made. It is very unlikely that there will be consensus to change its approach as you are suggesting, --MelanieN (talk) 03:23, 6 August 2014 (UTC)


I am surprised at some of the WikiProjects this page is supposedly related to. I can see no justification for including this article in "WikiProject Discrimination". I can see very little justification for listing it under "WikiProject History of science" or under "WikiProject United States/Government". Anybody mind if I delete those three listings from the top of this page? That would leave Crime, Law Enforcement, Skepticism, and Physiology as appropriate Wikiprojects. I am open to persuasion if someone thinks those other classifications make sense. --MelanieN (talk) 03:29, 6 August 2014 (UTC)