Admissibility of polygraph tests: The Application of Scientific Standards Post-Daubert

Leonard Saxe, Gershon Ben-Shakhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (1993) modernized the long-standing Frye (1923) precedent and requires courts to make scientific judgments. Courts, however, are not well-equipped to parse scientific arguments. To illustrate the difficulty of applying Daubert, this article focuses on the controversy over admissibility of polygraph test evidence ("lie detectors"). Reliability and validity are discussed in relation to polygraph testing and the Daubert criteria. Although the validity of polygraph test results has been examined across many studies, none satisfy necessary methodological criteria and accuracy rates are unpredictable. This analysis points to the need for social scientists and courts to develop a mutually understood language to assess validity claims. Courts must have the ability to weight scientific evidence and, although they need not become amateur scientists, they must become sophisticated consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-223
Number of pages21
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


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