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

By David T. Lykken | Go to book overview

Part I
LIE DETECTION:
THE CONCEPT

He who would distinguish the false from the true Must have an adequate idea of what is false and true.
-- SPINOZA, Ethics, 1677

Whenever I lecture on polygraphic interrogation, I like to begin by asking the audience to indicate by show of hands how many would agree to take a lie detector test -- and how many would refuse -- in some plausible, hypothetical situation that I briefly describe. Among American audiences, a substantial majority acknowledge that they would take the test if they were innocent of wrongdoing and wished to prove their truthfulness. Many Europeans, in contrast, have never heard of any such device. The lie detector is almost exclusively an American artifact, and in the United States, it seems firmly entrenched in popular mythology. There lurks some vague familiarity with the concept in the mind of nearly every American who can read and wears shoes. The history of this phenomenon, which has a kind of fascination, is briefly reviewed in Chapter 3. That chapter also previews the armamentarium available to the modern Diogenes.

But before poisoning your mind with facts and figures, I have arranged to let you experience a lie detector test yourself. Chapter 2 dramatizes what might ensue if you were asked to take a lie detector test administered by a highly competent, professional police examiner under real-life conditions. Chapter 4 considers whether there is now or will ever

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