[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
January 9, 1987

The Predictive Power of the Polygraph: The Lies Lie Detectors Tell

Author Affiliations

University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Chicago

JAMA. 1987;257(2):189-190. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390020055021

To the Editor.—  The American Medical Association's (AMA) Council on Scientific Affairs1 correctly recommended that the polygraph not be used in preemployment testing and security clearance. Its review of the data on the validity and accuracy of the test for this form of screening is in line with findings in criminal investigations.2 These data show that the range of false-positives in a criminal investigation is from 18% to 50%, with the latter upper-range percentages representing a level of performance that is a good deal inferior to random decision making.The point is shown clearly in a recent Lancet article3 on the predictive power of the polygraph. The authors analyzed two criminal case studies2,4 in terms of the specificity and sensitivity performance characteristics of the polygraph— ie, the probability that a person with a positive test result is actually guilty or that one with a negative result