A Comparison of Field and Laboratory Polygraphs in the Detection of Deception

Christopher J. Patrick, William G. Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


This study compared the effectiveness of field and laboratory polygraphs in discriminating guilty and innocent subjects tested using the Control Question Technique (CQT). Subjects were 48 prisoners examined regarding a mock theft in a peer threat context; physiological responses were recorded simultaneously on a Lafayette field polygraph and a Sensor Medics laboratory polygraph. Overall hit rates were essentially the same whether classifications were based on quantitative measures from the laboratory polygraph or on numerical scores from the field polygraph (i.e., 73% and 79%, respectively), and in both cases the best discriminating measures were electrodermal activity and indices of respiration suppression. Further analyses revealed that errors of classification were mostly due to the failure of the available measures to differentiate between relevant and control questions for innocent subjects. These results indicate that the CQT is susceptible to false positive errors when subjects are tested under field‐like circumstances, a problem that is not likely to be eliminated by refinements in instrumentation and scoring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)632-638
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Control Question Technique
  • Detection of deception
  • Field and laboratory polygraphs


Dive into the research topics of 'A Comparison of Field and Laboratory Polygraphs in the Detection of Deception'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this