Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have been trying to develop a lie detector, a machine that is able to determine which of two contradictory versions is correct at the press of a button. Such a lie detector would be able neutralize the reporter’s hidden incentives, ambitions or beliefs in any report, description or testimony.
The King Solomon version of the lie detector
Various versions of such a lie detector have been developed over the years. Already from the period of King Solomon, who utilized his great wisdom and simple manipulation to reach a decision in the case of the two women, who claimed motherhood of the same child. In other cultures we also come across different variations of lie detectors. For example, the white hot sword test, during which a person is asked to place a white hot sword on his tongue in order to determine the truth or a lie. Its origin is in the simple physiological fact that the tongue dries when telling a lie. This is a primitive lie detector.
A legal precedent on the subject of lie detectors was determined already in 1923
William Marston developed the first lie detector, which was based on the same principles as a modern polygraph, in the
USA during the 1920’s. A famous case tested using this lie detector was the Frye trial in 1923, during which a man charged with murder, was tested with a lie detector and found to be telling the truth.The court rejected the test findings, claiming that this lie detector had not yet been established in scientific research and that its accuracy level was unknown. Frye was found guilty of murder and sentenced to imprisonment. Approx. 10 years later, the real murderer was captured, confessed and reconstructed the murder. Surprisingly, despite being proved an error, the Frye precedent, forms the legal basis for forbidding the use of a lie detector or, under its contemporary name, polygraph, during criminal proceedings in the USA and other countries in the world, including Israel.
This is not a truth machine but a lie detector
The expression, truth machine, has rooted itself amongst the public as a name for the polygraph apparatus. This name is essentially erroneous. In contrast to the understanding from the expression, truth machine, the polygraph is not a machine that determines whether an expression is the truth or a lie at the push of a button. It is, instead, an apparatus that assists the polygraph expert to determine lies. The second part of the expression truth machine, is also inaccurate. In contrast to the truth, which in most cases is subjective, complex and variable according points of view, instances in which each of the parties to a dispute insist on their own truth, which is the opposite to the truth of the second party are absolutely possible, surely a lie is a conscious intentional act to distort the facts and is, therefore, easier to trace.
Therefore, the expression, “lie detector” rather than a “truth machine” is the best for describing a polygraph.