Deception is a common human behavior that is often used to protect oneself from harm or to gain some form of advantage. However, it can have serious consequences if used to commit a crime or to deceive others in a personal or professional setting. Lie detection is an important tool used to identify and prevent deception. The use of lie detection tools such as the polygraph has been widely debated due to the limitations and controversies associated with their use. In this article, we will discuss the role of psychology in the process of lie detection and its potential benefits.

The Psychology of Detection Apprehension

According to Paul Ekman, a prominent psychologist in the field of lie detection, the amount of detection apprehension experienced by a liar is determined by their beliefs about the target’s skill as a lie catcher. The more difficult it is to fool an expert in detecting lies, the more detection apprehension the liar will feel. Thus, psychology plays a crucial role in the accuracy of detecting lies by observing non-verbal cues and mental states of an individual.

The Role of Psychology in Uncovering Deception

Deception is often motivated by a need that is justified by the individual, and as such, can be concealed behind a façade of virtue. However, the preconscious motives of individuals can be brought into awareness by societal influences, leading to varying motivations resulting from negative stimuli. Psychology can enhance the assessment process by providing further opportunities for clinical observation, resulting in a higher degree of clarity in individuals with varying personality traits.

Polygraph as a Deterrent

Polygraph testing has been used as a tool to deter people who have done or may do certain undesired things from sensitive positions. The polygraph procedure is an interactive process where the Forensic Polygraphist introduces meticulously formulated questions to an individual in a sterile environment. Subsequently, the individual is attached to the polygraph equipment, and the questions are re-introduced, causing physiological changes in the individual’s body. These changes are fed into specially designed software, and charts are produced. Upon conclusion, the Polygraphist does a numerical analysis of these charts and arrives at a decision. The Polygraphist then re-engages the examinee in a post-test procedure in an attempt to elicit additional information in the form of a confession.

The Partnership between Polygraph and Psychology

Polygraph and psychology are inherently linked in the assessment of mental processes and subsequent attempts towards behavioral modification. The Sex Offender Containment Model in the USA was designed to clinically assess and monitor post-conviction sex offenders, and polygraph plays a major role in this model. Preliminary data indicate that polygraph tests are useful in the evaluation of patients with severe psychiatric illnesses, which highlights the potential gains polygraph presents when introduced in other avenues of assessing mental states.


Lie detection is an essential tool for identifying and preventing deception. While there are limitations and controversies surrounding the use of lie detection tools, the partnership between polygraph and psychology has the potential to enhance the accuracy of detection and uncover preconscious motives in individuals.