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

By David T. Lykken | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
POLYGRAPH SCREENING
TECHNIQUES

It is obviously a most effective protection for legitimate secrets that it should be universally understood and expected that those who ask questions which they have no right to ask will have lies told to them.

-- H. SIDGWICK, The Methods of Ethics

If an investigator screened a group comprising 50%, liars by flipping a coin, diagnosing a "liar" every time it came down heads, he would detect the actual liars in the group with an accuracy not far short of the polygraph.

-- M. PHILLIPS, MRCP, A. S. BRETT, M.D.,
& J. F. BEARY III, M.D. 1

Prior to the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (Figure 10.1), employee screening was by far the most common application of the polygraph, and because the Act curiously exempted federal agencies from its proscriptions, federal police and security agencies continue to require that job applicants submit to this procedure. A valuable insight into this screening technique as it is actually practiced was provided by a book, Preemployment Polygraphy, published in 1984 by two well-known members of the polygraph fraternity, Robert J. Ferguson and Chris Gugas, Sr. I had the pleasure of reviewing that text for the American Psychology Association's

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