Volume 48, Issue 6 (November 2003)
Review of: Handbook of Polygraph Testing
For as long as human beings have deceived one another, people have tried to develop ways to detect lies and uncover the truth." This statement, by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, appeared in a recent (2002) report describing their survey and analysis of the published research on the polygraph and lie detection. The fact that such a prestigious body undertook an evaluation (Notwithstanding the quite large sum of money provided for the review!) shows, as the preceding quotation suggests, the importance of the field of "lie detection" to all human interactions, social, legal, political and other domains. Deceit and its detection, are a part of life. (Not just human life, of course.) But, is it really possible to detect human deception with the use of a polygraph instrument, a so-called, "lie detector?" The NAS report was not very encouraging in this regard, though it did restrict almost all of its conclusions to polygraph usage for "security screening" purposes. It did not focus on forensic applications, where polygraph testing commonly plays a role in helping to resolve criminal investigations. In fact, it may well be that such testing is more widely used in the U.S. for that purpose than almost all other forensic techniques. What do we know about such testing and how might we evaluate its effectiveness? This book is the most recent of the handful in polygraphy-a field in which there has been relatively little scholarly (writing and research) attention.