The results of a recent study published in Law and Human Behavior, Volume 33, Number 6, December 2009, titled “Police Lie Detection Accuracy: The Effect of Lie Scenarios” conducted by Maureen O’Sullivan, Mark G. Frank, Carolyn M. Hurly and Jaspreet Tiwana, report that “Lie Detection” studies conducted by many universities and other researchers suffered from design flaws, and thus the validity of these studies is questionable.  The research found that “Across 23 studies, involving 31 different police groups in eight countries, police officers tested with lie detection scenarios using high stakes lies (i.e., the lie was personally involving and/or resulted in substantial rewards or punishments for the liar) were significantly more accurate than law enforcement officials tested with low stakes lies.

The findings and implications of the study are important to CVSA Examiners.  They support the long-held contention of the VSA community that the vast majority of VSA studies funded by pro-polygraph elements of the US Government were significantly flawed.  One of the many flaws of these studies identified by professional researchers and peer reviewers was that they lacked real-life consequence and thus lacked jeopardy.  Instead they relied on contrived or artificial game playing scenarios in an attempt to induce jeopardy, or they eliminated both consequences and jeopardy by providing the subjects of the experiments with guaranteed confidentiality regarding any statements they made (whether these statements were incriminating or not).  According to the cited research, such protocols produce “low stakes lies” (by removing consequence/jeopardy).  The researchers make the case that consequence and jeopardy found in “high stakes lies” are required to accurately and consistently detect deception.

Two recent VSA studies, in particular, fall into the above category.  VSA research conducted by the University of Florida, and a second study conducted by researchers from the University of Oklahoma, both utilized “low stakes lies” in an attempt to measure the results of various VSA instruments.  Both of these studies were funded, overseen or supervised by polygraph proponents of the US Government.  Although the flaws in these studies have been previously exposed by both professional researchers and peer reviewers, the polygraph community continues to rely on them in an attempt to discredit VSA technology.  The findings of the O’Sullivan study provide further evidence regarding the lack of scientific validity of these poorly designed studies.