We humans would like to think we have a firm grasp on the truth. Unfortunately we do only slightly better than chance, about 55% of the time we are correct, when it comes to deciphering whether or not someone is telling the truth. Perhaps even as you are reading this, you are thinking to yourselves, "This can't be right, I'm excellent at deciding whether or not someone is lying!" Unfortunately though, "there's typically little or no correlation between people's confidence in their ability to detect lies and their accuracy" (Ekman, 2001). Have no fear; the polygraph test is here to save the day! Or is it?
The polygraph test, more commonly referred to as the lie detector, is supposed to be able to tell whether or not people are lying. It's an excellent concept that in the end falls short. By gauging levels of arousal, such as blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductance, it ends up doing better than chance at detecting lies. Better than chance is alright, yet it often times convicts innocent people, and occasionally will let guilty people go free. In fact, an individual can be trained in less than half an hour on how to "defeat" the lie detector test. Results show that half or more of these people end up actually being able to deceive the polygraph test. Perhaps we will never be able to know 100% whether or not someone is telling the truth or lying. Were you surprised by how poorly people are able to detect lies, or perhaps by the fact that the lie detector isn't the fail proof method that pop culture makes it out to be?