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Scientists Give the Lie to Polygraph Testing; Security: The tool has failed to ferret out spies and other threats, an expert panel concludes.
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Subjects: Credibility; Polygraphs; National security; Public policy
Author: Piller, Charles
Date: Oct 9, 2002
Start Page: A.1
Section: Main News; National Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

Produced by experts in psychology, engineering, law and other fields, the report confirms long-standing doubts about the validity of polygraph testing that led to a 1988 federal law banning the use of such tests for employment screening in most private businesses.

Reviewing a century of experience, the research panel found that technicians can sometimes detect deceptive responses to questions involving specific incidents, such as, "Were you at the bank robbery on Oct. 9, 2002?" But the method shows scant reliability for general use in employment or security screening, particularly with spies or criminals trained to defeat the testing procedure.

"If there is a decision made to continue polygraph testing, it would have to be made on the untested belief that the benefits of deterrence and confessions" offset the vast cost of testing and the negative effect on thousands of falsely suspected subjects, said Richard M. Shiffrin, an author of the report and a professor of psychology at Indiana University.

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