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Sept. 7, 2018

UA Psychologist Available to Discuss Polygraphs

TUCSON, Ariz. — A University of Arizona expert is available to discuss the effectiveness of polygraph examinations, or lie detector tests.

Recently, Sen. Rand Paul suggested President Donald Trump force members of his administration to take polygraph examinations to determine the identity of the anonymous senior administration official who wrote an unflattering op-ed in The New York Times.

UA Distinguished Professor of Psychology John Allen says polygraph tests are ineffective and misidentify 40-50 percent of nondeceptive individuals as deceptive, because there is no unique physiological response associated with lying.

The White House reportedly has a list of about 12 suspects who could have written the editorial. Allen says there is about a 90 percent chance the author of the editorial would fail the polygraph test; however, four to five other suspects would likely fail as well.

"When important issues must be decided, we need highly accurate tools, and the polygraph is not among them," Allen says.

Researcher contact:
John Allen
UA Department of Psychology

Media contact:
Alexis Blue
UA Communications

Established in 1885, the University of Arizona, the state's super land-grant university with two medical schools, produces graduates who are real-world ready through its 100% Engagement initiative. Recognized as a global leader and ranked 16th for the employability of its graduates, the UA is also a leader in research, bringing more than $622 million in research investment each year, and ranking 21st among all public universities. The UA is advancing the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships, and is a member of the Association of American Universities, the 62 leading public and private research universities. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $8.3 billion annually.