For visitors interested in the polygraph we have selected a few articles, documents and reports of significance in the field. We hope you enjoy them.
In 2020 a research team at the University of Kent (UK) released the report of a study to investigate the value of polygraph testing to help monitor convicted sex offenders living in the community. They concluded “Findings across all police areas suggest that polygraph testing increases [risk-relevant disclosures] . . . Polygraph testing, regardless of whether voluntary or mandatory, elicits more information relevant to risk.”
After a number of serious spy cases in the 1980s the Central Intelligence Agency oversaw a project that involved the interviewing of convicted spies to determine characteristics and motivations of those who committed treason. The final report was classified, but a redacted version of the interim report has been released. One of the central findings was that of all the security protections put in place to safeguard national secrets, the convicted spies were only concerned about the polygraph.
The 2003 report on the polygraph by the National Research Council (NRC) is expansive and thorough. Its conclusions are mixed, some supporting and others challenging the use of the polygraph. Though the NRC considered many alternatives to the polygraph, it could not support any. Their report is available as a download here:
To help its members know which polygraph techniques had supporting research evidence, the American Polygraph Association (APA) undertook a literature review and statistical summary of evidence in 2011. Called the Meta-Analytic Survey of Criterion Accuracy of Validated Polygraph Techniques, its accuracy estimates aligned with those of the NRC report of 2003. Because APA members are required to use validated methods the 2011 APA summary became a default guide for field practices.
The US government produced a policy manual for federal polygraph programs in 1997 and has updated it every few years. The most recent version in the public domain is from October 2006. The document is called the Federal Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Handbook, or the Federal Examiner Handbook for short. It covers technical aspects for the preparation, conduct, analysis and reporting of polygraph examinations.
In 1908 Professor Hugo Münsterberg of Harvard University collected and published a series of his essays on the intersection of law and psychology. The book, On the Witness Stand, is considered one of the classics in psychology. The book’s relevance to the polygraph is found in the chapter titled The Traces of Emotion where Professor Münsterberg suggested the physiological data channels that would later become the polygraph.
In 1922 the first scientific article about the polygraph was published. It was written by Dr. John A. Larson, then working for the Berkeley (California) Police Department. In it he describes his approach as well as one of his first criminal cases.