A lie detector being used on a female subject

American Experience: The Lie Detector

Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023 at 8 p.m.

In the 1920s, as law enforcement began to develop more scientific methods, researchers claimed they could tell whether someone was lying by using a machine called the polygraph. Popularly known as the “lie detector,” the device transformed police work, seized headlines and was extolled in movies, TV and comics as an infallible crime-fighting tool. Husbands and wives tested each other’s fidelity. Corporations tested employees’ honesty and government workers were tested for loyalty and “morals.” But the promise of the polygraph turned dark, and the lie detector became an apparatus to frighten and intimidate millions of Americans. Directed by Rob Rapley, the film is a tale of good intentions, twisted morals and unintended consequences.

As the new season of American Experience begins, discover the story behind the polygraph. A tale of good intentions, twisted morals and unintended consequences.

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