Forensic "lie detection": Procedures without scientific basis

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22 Scopus citations


This paper provides a critical overview of the scientific status of the control question test (CQT), the type of polygraph test most likely to be used in forensic settings. The CQT is based on an implausible set of assumptions that makes it biased against innocent individuals and easy for guilty persons to defeat using countermeasures. Due to serious methodological problems that characterize research on CQT validity, it is not possible to use the existing literature to provide a satisfactory error rate estimate. Scientists, including members of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and APA Fellows, hold negative views about the CQT. They do not believe that it is based on sound theory, that it has adequate psychometric properties, or that it should be used as evidence in court.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-86
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychology Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
William G. Iacono is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Director, Clinical Science and Psychopathology Research Training Program at the University of Minnesota. He is also a Past President, Society for Psychophysiological Research and recipient of Early Career Awards for Distinguished Scientific Contributions from the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the American Psychological Association. Author of over 150 publications, he has been a consultant regarding polygraph testing to the CIA, Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, the U.S. Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment, and the Clinton Administration’s Joint Security Commission. An expert witness in over two dozen trials in state and federal courts, his work was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the ban of polygraph evidence in military trials (U.S. v. Scheffer). His research interests include psychophysiology, psychopathology, and behavior genetics.


  • Control question test
  • Forensic
  • Lie detection
  • Polygraph


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