Lie Detection

lie detector

lie detector, instrument designed to record bodily changes resulting from the telling of a lie. Cesare Lombroso, in 1895, was the first to utilize such an instrument, but it was not until 1914 and 1915 that Vittorio Benussi, Harold Burtt, and, above all, William Marston produced devices establishing correlation of blood pressure and respiratory changes with lying. In 1921 an instrument capable of continuously recording blood pressure, respiration, and pulse rate was devised by John Larson. This was followed by the polygraph (1926) of Leonarde Keeler, a refinement of earlier devices, and by the psychogalvanometer (1936) of Walter Summers, a machine that measures electrical changes on the skin. A more recent innovation are devices, first developed in 1970, called psychological stress evaluators or voice stress analyzers, which measure voice frequencies from tape recordings.

Although the lie detector is used in police work, the similarity of physical changes caused by stress and such emotional factors as feelings of guilt to changes caused by lies has made its evidence for the most part legally unacceptable. An assessment of such devices by National Research Council (an arm of the National Academy of Sciences) found that they also were too unreliable to be used in screening for national security purposes, but they are widely used for such purposes nonetheless, sometimes with inconsistent results from one government agency to another. The use of lie detectors to screen employees and job applicants is highly controversial.

See E. B. Block, Lie Detectors, Their History and Use (1977); C. Gugas, The Silent Witness (1979); D. T. Lykken, A Tremor in the Blood (1981); K. Alder, The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession (2007).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector
David T. Lykken.
Perseus Publishing, 1998
How Honesty Testing Works
John B. Miner; Michael H. Capps.
Quorum Books, 1996
Temporarily FREE! Lies!, Lies!!, Lies!!! The Psychology of Deceit
Charles V. Ford.
American Psychiatric Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Detection of Deceit" and Chap. 11 "Technological Detection of Deceit"
Psychology and Law: Truthfulness, Accuracy and Credibility
Amina Memon; Aldert Vrij; Ray Bull.
Wiley, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Telling and Detecting Lies"
Some Avoidable Lie-Detector Mistakes
Inbau, Fred E.
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 89, No. 4, Summer 1999
Police, Plus Perjury, Equals Polygraphy
Dripps, Donald A.
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 86, No. 3, Spring 1996
Polygraph Evidence in Federal Courts: Should It Be Admissible?
Gallai, David.
American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 1999
Psychology and Policing
Neil Brewer; Carlene Wilson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Offender Testimony: Detection of Deception and Guilty Knowledge"
Psychology and Law: An Empirical Perspective
Neil Brewer; Kipling D. Williams.
Guilford Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Deception Detection"
Applications of Nonverbal Communication
Ronald E. Riggio; Robert S. Feldman.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
Librarian’s tip: "Police Officers' Ability to Detect Lies" begins on p. 75, and "Directions of Further Research in Lie Detection" begins on p. 82
Psychophysiology: Human Behavior and Physiological Response
John L. Andreassi.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000 (4th edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "Applied Psychophysiology I: Detection of Deception, Vigilance, Job Design, and Workload"
Preemployment Honesty Testing: Current Research and Future Directions
John W. Jones.
Quorum Books, 1991
Handbook of Demonstrations and Activities in the Teaching of Psychology
Mark E. Ware; David E. Johnson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.3, 2000 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Detecting Deception Is Not as Easy as It Looks" begins on p. 271
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