(Received 10 January 1989; accepted 30 March 1989)
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The use of the polygraph as a supposed lie detector is reviewed, as well as some of the literature purporting to uphold claims of scientific reliability and validity for the technique. Interviews with individuals involved with polygraphic lie detection indicate that any effectiveness of the technique may be, in the main, due to the suggestibility of the examinees and the coercive mystique of the instrument. The 1988 Polygraph Protection Act may have placed some effective restrictions on what was formerly untrammeled and overtly abusive use of the polygraph in private industry. However, considerable potential for current and future abuse continues to exist. Psychiatrists and all mental health experts are especially warned about the ethical problems resulting therefrom.
Clinical professor of psychiatry and director of forensic psychiatric training, School of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, CA
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