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For use of polygraph as a lie detector see:Use of the polygraph in lie detection

A polygraph (popularly referred to as a lie detector) is an instrument that measures and records several physiological responses such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, breathing rhythms, body temperature and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions, on the theory that false answers will produce distinctive measurements. The polygraph measures physiological changes caused by the sympathetic nervous system during questioning. Within the US federal government, a polygraph examination is also referred to as a psychophysiological detection of deception (PDD) examination.

Polygraphs are in some countries used as an interrogation tool with criminal suspects or candidates for sensitive public or private sector employment. The use and effectiveness of the polygraph is controversial, with the manner of its use and its validity subject to increasing criticism.

History[edit | edit source]

The idea that lying produces physical side-effects has long been claimed. In West Africa persons suspected of a crime were made to pass a bird's egg to one another.[How to reference and link to summary or text] If a person broke the egg, then he or she was considered guilty, based on the idea that their nervousness was to blame. In ancient China the suspect held a handful of rice in his or her mouth during a prosecutor's speech.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Because salivation was believed to cease at times of emotional anxiety, the person was considered guilty if by the end of that speech the rice was dry.

Early devices for lie detection include an 1885 invention of Cesare Lombroso used to measure changes in blood pressure for police cases, a 1914 device by Vittorio Benussi used to measure breathing, and an abandoned project by American William Marston which used blood pressure and galvanic skin response to examine German Prisoners Of War (POW).[1]

A device recording both blood-pressure and galvanic skin response was invented in 1921 by Dr. John A. Larson of the University of California and first applied in law enforcement work by the Berkeley Police Department under its nationally renowned police chief August Vollmer. Further work on this device was done by Leonarde Keeler.[2]

Several devices similar to Keeler's polygraph version included the Berkeley Psychograph, a blood pressure-pulse-respiration recorder developed by C. D. Lee in 1936[3] and the Darrow Behavior Research Photopolygraph, which was developed and intended solely for behavior research experiments[4][5]

Makenzie wrote a second paper on the concept in 1915, when finishing his undergraduate studies. He entered Harvard Law School and graduated in 1918, re-publishing his earlier work in 1917.[6] According to their son, Marston's wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, was also involved in the development of the systolic blood-pressure test: "According to Marston’s son, it was his mother Elizabeth, Marston’s wife, who suggested to him that 'When she got mad or excited, her blood pressure seemed to climb' (Lamb, 2001). Although Elizabeth is not listed as Marston’s collaborator in his early work, Lamb, Matte (1996), and others refer directly and indirectly to Elizabeth’s work on her husband’s deception research. She also appears in a picture taken in his polygraph laboratory in the 1920s (reproduced in Marston, 1938)."[7][8] The comic book character, Wonder Woman by William Marston (and influenced by Elizabeth Marston[9][10] ) carries a magic lasso which was modelled upon the pneumograph (breathing monitor) test.[11][9]

Marston was the self proclaimed “father of the polygraph” despite his predecessor's contributions. Marston remained the device's primary advocate, lobbying for its use in the courts. In 1938 he published a book, The Lie Detector Test, wherein he documented the theory and use of the device.[12] In 1938 he appeared in advertising by the Gillette company claiming that the polygraph showed Gillette razors were better than the competition.[13][14][15]

A device which recorded muscular activity accompanying changes in blood pressure was developed in 1945 by John E. Reid, who claimed that greater accuracy could be obtained by making these recordings simultaneously with standard blood pressure-pulse-respiration recordings.[16][17]

Construction and design[edit | edit source]

Manufacturers and models[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
  1. Nitv Llc
  2. Leonarde Keeler and his Instruments
  3. Inbau, Fred E. Lie Detection and Criminal Interrogation, The Williams & Wilkins Company, 1948
  4. Inbau, Fred E. Lie Detection and Criminal Interrogation, The Williams & Wilkins Company, 1948
  5. Troville, P. V. "A History of Lie Detection," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 29 (6)-848 (1939); 30 (1):104 (1939)
  6. Marston, William M. "Systolic Blood Pressure Changes in Deception," Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2:117-163.
  8. The Polygraph and Lie Detection
  9. 9.0 9.1 Who Was Wonder Woman? Long-ago LAW alumna Elizabeth Marston was the muse who gave us a superheroine
  10. OUR TOWNS; She's Behind the Match For That Man of Steel
  11. The Polygraph and Lie Detection, p.295
  12. Marston, William Moulton. The Lie Detector. New York: Richard R. Smith, 1938.
  13. William Marston's Secret Identity. Reason magazine.
  14. Now! Lie Detector Charts Emotional Effects of Shaving - 1938 Gillette Advertisement
  15. FBI File of William Moulton Marston (including report on Gillette advertising campaign)
  16. Inbau, Fred E. Lie Detection and Criminal Interrogation, The Williams & Wilkins Company, 1948
  17. Reid, J. E. "Simulated Blood Pressure Responses in Lie-Detection Tests and a Method for Their Deception," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 36 (1):201-215 (1945)
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