A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector

By David T. Lykken | Go to book overview

Part II
LIE DETECTION:
THE METHODS

What we, the American people, are witnessing is the beginning of the end of mankind's search for an honest witness. For the first time in the history of civilization, mankind has the opportunity to prove beyond any reasonable doubt the veracity of his testimony through a generally accepted and scientific [sic] valid examination of his own psyche. God gave us the polygraph.

-- MICHAEL B. LYNCH, in Polygraph, The Journal of the
American Polygraph Association, 1975

These seven chapters are devoted to a critical evaluation of the various methods that are commonly used for purposes of lie detection. Many polygraphers believe that the examiner is the real "lie detector" and that polygraphers can be trained to be expert practical psychologists able to spot the "symptoms" of deception more skillfully and accurately than the rest of us can. Polygraphers of this persuasion use the polygraph recordings in reaching their diagnosis, but only as an adjunct. They think of themselves rather like experienced medical diagnosticians who rely heavily on the look and feel and history of the actual patient in reaching their conclusions. Chapter 6 considers the logic of this approach and the evidence concerning how well it seems to work.

Most of the more recently trained polygraphers, in contrast, try to focus on the polygraph recordings exclusively. They do not pretend to be

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