The Validity of Polygraph Testing. Scientific Analysis and Public Controversy

Leonard Saxe, Denise Dougherty, Theodore Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polygraph tests to detect deceptiveness have been conducted for many years, although their validity has not yet been established. The present review was conducted to aid Congressional consideration of efforts by the Department of Defense and President Reagan to expand use of polygraph tests to large numbers of government employees with access to classified information. Results of this review suggest serious problems with both the theoretical rationale underlying use of polygraph tests and the quality of available evidence that supports the validity of such tests. Although previous evidence suggests that polygraph tests are highly accurate, the validity of these data are not clear, particularly for the uses proposed by the government. As an exemplar of how psychological research evidence influences public policy, this study illustrates both the difficulties and potential of social science theory and research in shaping the direction of political decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-366
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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