Polygraph, Lie Detection & Lie Detector Research & Accuracy StudiesThe Truth about Polygraph, Lie Detection & Lie Detector Research & Accuracy Studies
Polygraph, Lie Detection & Lie Detector Research & Accuracy Studies
Depending on where the information comes from, it is quite common to hear that polygraph & lie detection accuracy (validity) ranges from ‘no better than tossing a coin’ or 50% all the way to 100% perfect. Both extremes are incorrect.
Unfortunately, it is way too easy to pick one study on polygraph & lie detection and use it as an attempt to prove polygraph is close to perfect or that polygraph is completely useless. Common sense would advise avoiding extreme claims in either direction.
Call Andrew Goldstein, The Polygraph Examiner, for information about LOCAL lie detection testing in North Carolina, South Carolina & Georgia at (800) 497-9305.
The truth is: studies vary dramatically. Why? One group from the Office of Technology Assessment, a government agency which performed a review of existing research studies back in 1983 had this to say as part of their conclusion:
“A major reason why scientific debate over polygraph validity yields conflicting conclusions is that the validity of such a complex procedure is very difficult to assess and may vary widely from one application to another. The accuracy obtained in one situation or research study may not generalize to different situations or to different types of persons being tested. Scientifically acceptable research on polygraph & lie detection testing is hard to design and conduct.”
Because standardization of research for polygraph is admittedly difficult, any percentage is open to debate because the how, who, what and why of any polygraph study doesn’t necessarily apply to all testing situations.
Email Us or Call (800) 497-9305
It is all in how you view it. There are studies done in a laboratory and studies done in the field. There are studies done using particular techniques that yield completely different results from other techniques. There are studies done on testing for a single, specific issue (tests on a crime, on fidelity, etc.) and studies done on what is known as screening, which covers most pre-employment type of tests. There are studies done where the threat of being discovered lying is very real and there are tests done in a laboratory where participants don’t have any ‘real’ threat of consequences to their lying. Some studies count ‘inconclusive’ results as errors which makes the accuracy percentages lower than they really are. Some studies were done using analog instruments and some using computerized. Nobody perfectly agrees on actual percentages.
The good news. What the majority of researchers do agree on are:
1. Polygraph is much better than chance but less than perfect.
2. Polygraph is the best tool to date for detecting deception and its utility, meaning its effectiveness in resolving crimes and issues, is unquestioned.
3. That a specific issue test (a test about one thing, did you do it or did you not do it) is more accurate than any other type of test.
4 That the training, skills and expertise of the examiner is extremely important to the accuracy of an exam.
The truth is, personal examiner accuracy is far more important than all the validity studies combined. We go to every effort to be thorough, respectful, conscientious and impartial in conducting our examinations and we are committed to having the most up to date information and training at our fingertips. From tests we have been able to verify , our personal accuracy is exceptional simply because we work hard to make it so, taking as much human error as possible out of that equation.
People love numbers and percentages. We obviously avoided those here, at least until making a case for what really matters. But as a guideline, we follow the conclusions as set for by the American Polygraph Association. In reviewing 80+ studies which included over 6,000 tests conducted since 1980, the overall ranges are:
Field Studies (real life crimes) – 92% to 98% overall accuracy.
Laboratory Studies (mock crimes) – 80% to 81% overall accuracy. Since we will never be testing you in a laboratory, the Field Studies percentages of 92% to 98% are the ones that will relate to your testing situation.