PhACT - don't forget coming meeting this Saturday
- The Leonids meteor shower around Nov 19th will not be quite as good as last year - but still of interest:The following is information on the coming meeting this Saturday 2pm at the Philadelphia Community College:
The Pitfalls of Polygraph Testing."
by Professor John Ruscio
Distinguishing honesty from dishonesty is an incredibly important yet fiendishly difficult task that challenges individuals and institutions at all levels of our society. One popular technique used to detect deception is the polygraph, or "lie detector," test. The validity of conclusions drawn from polygraph examinations can vary substantially depending on the specific procedures that are used to conduct the exams and interpret their results. In addition to these sources of variance, the base rate of deception in the population being tested has a significant influence on the validity of conclusions that can be easy to overlook. Rather than simply accepting polygraph testing as an infallible guide to truth or dismissing it as a hopelessly flawed practice, cost-benefit analyses should weight the probabilities of various outcomes by their real-world consequences to determine whether such testing is advisable out for a particular purpose. Unfortunately, realistic cost-benefit analyses presented in an explicit and honest manner appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Based on an overview of the general scientific framework for evaluating diagnostic decisions and a summary of relevant empirical research, I would like to suggest that we often hear the most strident calls for polygraph testing in the very circumstances when it is least likely to yield a net benefit.
BIO: John Ruscio is a member of the Psychology Department at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County, PA. His primary areas of research and teaching interest include human judgment and decision making, the classification and diagnosis of psychopathology, and statistical methods to study boundary issues involving qualitative vs. quantitative individual differences. He is also author of Clear Thinking with Psychology: Separating Sense from Nonsense and Applying What We Have Learned:Bob Glickman and I will probably go to the James Randi "Amazing Meeting" the weekend of Jan 31st:People willing to make books available for the distributed PhACT library should send submissions to:Skeptical sites of interest:http://www.youngskeptics.org/ - new effort to reach young people with critical thinkinghttp://www.csicop.org/ CSICOPhttp://randi.org/ James Randi Educational Foundationhttp://skeptic.com/ Skeptic Societyhttp://www.network54.com/Forum/106498 our discussion board