Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Scientific Origins of the Polygraph Test

Sally Satel & Scott O. Lillienfeld, BRAINWASHED: THE SEDUCTIVE APPEAL OF MINDLESS NEUROSCIENCE 78 (Basic Books, 2013) (footnotes omitted):
In the early 1900s, William Moulton Marston, an undergraduate at Harvard, invented the precursor of the modern polygraph. The device recorded breathing rate by means of a pneumatic rubber hose wrapped around the subject's chest and a blood-pressure cuff encircling the upper arm. In a charming footnote to polygraph history, Marston later became a comic-book writer and, under the pen name of Charles Moulton, created Wonder Woman, an action heroine who wore a a "Golden Lasso of Truth" around her waist. When villains were lassoed with her magical version of the pneumatic hose, they were forced to tell the truth.
This history (or "prehistory") makes me Wonder how the polygraph test ever escaped universal ridicule.


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