Polygraph testing and sexual abuse: The lure of the magic lasso

Theodore Paul Cross, Leonard Saxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polygraph tests to assess veracity are widely promoted for application in sexual abuse matters. The use of polygraph tests is advocated despite substantial differences in professional and scientific opinion about the validity of such techniques. Polygraph diagnoses of an individual's deception are inferences made by an examiner who compares physiological reactions to a set of questions. The test situation, however, is also used to induce examinees to admit crimes. In addition to their use in investigations, polygraph tests are used by defendants seeking exculpatory evidence and by treatment and probation programs to assess and monitor sexual offenders. Although there are dissenters, most knowledgeable scientists consider polygraph testing as unvalidated. Professionals need to access the literature on polygraph testing, evaluate the efficacy and ethics of polygraph tests in their community, and further develop standards for their use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-206
Number of pages12
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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