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© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Lie Detection: Selected full-text books and articles

How Honesty Testing Works By John B. Miner; Michael H. Capps Quorum Books, 1996
Lies!, Lies!!, Lies!!! The Psychology of Deceit By 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 By Amina Memon; Aldert Vrij; Ray Bull Wiley, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Telling and Detecting Lies"
Some Avoidable Lie-Detector Mistakes By Inbau, Fred E Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 89, No. 4, Summer 1999
Police, Plus Perjury, Equals Polygraphy By Dripps, Donald A Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 86, No. 3, Spring 1996
Polygraph Evidence in Federal Courts: Should It Be Admissible? By Gallai, David American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, Winter 1999
Psychology and Policing By 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 By Neil Brewer; Kipling D. Williams Guilford Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Deception Detection"
Applications of Nonverbal Communication By 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 By 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"
Handbook of Demonstrations and Activities in the Teaching of Psychology By 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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