I single out polygraphs because there's a danger we'll give them too much weight and credibility. If someone fails a polygraph, there could well be a tendency to keep that in mind, that somehow that person lied -- even if you're repeatedly given the caveat that the test has limitations, might not be accepted in court, blah, blah, blah. Alternately, if someone passes a polygraph, you may give them a lot of credibility that - in reality - is unwarranted. For crying out loud, a synonym for polygraph is "lie detector!" It's only human nature to take all factors into consideration. If someone won't take a polygraph, that's going to be factored in, too!
David- Its more of a justice system's probloem, they cut out deals with the criminals to tetify, all in the name of bigger picture. Many times people with small time records are denied to testify, or testimony is declared in eligible in the court but big criminals are allowed.
Many police departments give a polygraph test as part of their hiring process- refusal to take it will almost certainly bar you from getting the job. If you have something to hide, you'll need to know what to expect if you want to pass it. This also applies to other cases in which you have to take a polygraph- lying when taking a polygraph test for other reasons, though, you will not get in trouble by federal law for lying on the test because they are only 85% accurate, so polygraph cannot be used municipal in court lawfully in the US.
DavidSilversmith- Your reason is very sound but since many courts dont even accept the polygraph test as evidence, they themselves are admitting the poly graph is un reliable it makews no sense to put charges on people who help others cheating a poly graph test.
Even without any pseudo-scientific polygraph, I think seasoned detectives are probably very good at discerning who's lying and who's not, who's super-nervous just because of the situation and who's super-nervous because of the situation. But even the best detectives can be wrong -- and there are plenty of people who were jailed for decades until DNA proved their innocence.
jabailo - I don't think that lie detectors actually detect lies scientifically. I think it's more about observing the reactions to people who are asked to take the test.
There's a story about police who rigged up a fake lie detector out of a copy machine and a piece of paper that said "HE'S LYING." They told a suspect the machine was a real lie detector. Every time the cops thought the suspect was lying, they hit the COPY button and out came another copy of the piece of paper that said, "HE'S LYING." It worked. The cops got a confession.
Right: It's state by state, with most states having them inadmissible or allowing them only when both parties stipulate. Here's a great recap of the laws -- although if you need personal advice, the best thing to do is ask an attorney knowledgeable about your situation and the laws of your state.
The US Supreme Court has not, in fact, prohibited the use of evidence from polygraph tests, but the test does have a checkered history, and is not used in the court system in many states (or at all, I think, in Europe).
I've been skeptical since I saw a British TV presenter blithely defeat a polygraph test on television. The presenter in question had been hosting 15 or more hours per week of high-pressure live TV for years, and was a master at controlling his biofeedback responses. He lied like a trooper and the machine didn't catch him.
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