tively little theoretical evaluation of the processes underlying the responses to lie detector procedure since lie detection instruments and techniques have been developed empirically in the field.”
That assessment was in the introduction to a study that used factor analysis to examine the relationships of ten indices of electrodermal response and reduced them to two factors believed to have different psychological significance—one related to deception and the other to “test fright” and adaptation. Their research goal, as appropriate now as then, was to reveal basic links between psychological and physiological processes and thereby build scientific support for the choice of particular indicators of deception. This style of research, aimed at building a theory of the psychophysiological detection of deception by careful evaluation of empirical associations, has been little pursued. The same can be said of other strategies of theory building that draw on direct measurement of physiological phenomena, the techniques for which have been revolutionized over the past several decades.
Essentially the same criticism was voiced two decades ago by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (1983:6):
The basic theory of polygraph testing is only partially developed and researched. . . . A stronger theoretical base is needed for the entire range of polygraph applications. Basic polygraph research should consider the latest research from the fields of psychology, physiology, psychiatry, neuroscience, and medicine; comparison among question techniques; and measures of physiological research.
More intensive efforts to develop the basic science in the 1920s would have produced a more favorable assessment in the 1950s; more intensive efforts in the 1950s would have produced a more favorable assessment in the 1980s; more intensive efforts in the 1980s would have produced a more favorable assessment now. A research strategy with better grounding in basic science might have led to answers to some of the key validity questions raised by earlier generations of scientists. Polygraph techniques might have been modified to incorporate new knowledge, or the polygraph might have been abandoned in favor of more valid techniques for detecting deception. As we have suggested, the failure to make progress seems to be structural, rather than a failure of individuals. We continue this issue in Chapter 8, where we offer some recommendations for redesigning the research enterprise that might address the structural impediments to progress.
One cannot have strong confidence in polygraph testing or any other technique for the physiological detection of deception without an ad-