The ability to detect lies and to discriminate between truthful and deceptiveindividuals is of the upmost importance to any justice system, as it is may be crucial for acourt to know of any concealed information related to a criminal act. In addition,psychologists are also interested in how individuals detect lies in others, due to our basicdesire to know and recognise deception (Edelstein, Luten, Ekman, & Goodman, 2006).According to Ford (2006) everyone lies, and several studies have demonstrated that aindividual
‟s accuracy in detecting lies
in others is, on average, the same as would be expectedby chance (e.g.,
Ekman, O‟Sullivan, Friesen, & Scherer, 1991; Malone & DePaulo, 2001).
Consequently, there has been much effort in developing methods and instruments that havethe ability to accurately detect lies. The polygraph is perhaps one of the most well-knowninstruments used to differentiate between a truth and a lie. As such, the polygraph is referred
to as a “lie detector” an
d is classed as a deception detection test. The purpose of this essay isto demonstrate what a polygraph actually measures, to provide evidence to counter the myththat the polygraph is an accurate means of detecting lies and to explore some of the factorsthat may contribute to this myth still being perceived as true by the general population.The concept that a link exists between emotion and deception is not a new one (seeGrublin & Masden, 2005 for a historical review). It was Marston (1917) who first proposedthe polygraph as an instrument to detect lies. This polygraph test consisted of a standardsphygmomanometer
(blood pressure cuff) and a stethoscope. During questioning bloodpressure was measured intermittently, and Marston believed that elevated autonomic (bloodpressure) responses occurred when the individual engaged in deception, and that this was afear response. Marston claimed to have discovered the specific response for a lie andpublicly endorsed his polygraph by appearing in advertisements and magazine articles(National Research Council [NRC], 2003). Noteworthy is the fact that Marston was also thecreator of the female comic hero, Wonder Women, under the pen name Charles Moulton.