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The Polygraph and Lie Detection
Just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the line between the experimental and the demonstrable stages is difficult to define. Somewhere in this twilight zone the evidential force of the principle must be recognized, and while courts will go a long way in admitting expert testimony deduced from a well-organized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.
We think the systolic blood pressure deception test has not yet gained such standing and scientific recognition among physiological and psychological authorities as would justify the courts in admitting expert testimony deduced from the discovery, development, and experiments thus far made.
While Marston’s (1938) account of his proffered testimony in the Frye case suggests that the circumstances of the case and the original ruling were somewhat different than what this opinion suggests, the Frye test standard stood as the dominant rule regarding the admissibility of scientific expert testimony for the next 70 years. While most courts refused to admit testimony about polygraph evidence over the years, often with reference to Frye, some state and local courts did allow it, and Marston (1938) describes one such case in which he testified in an Indianapolis City Court, the year following Frye. In 1993, the Supreme Court’s Daubert ruling altered the approach to admissibility in the federal courts in significant ways, and the admissibility of polygraph evidence is once again in dispute (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 ); see Chapter 5.
After the war, Marston moved for 10 years from one academic post to another, including stints at American University, Columbia University, New York University, and Tufts University. It was during this period that Marston developed his theory of emotions, borrowing from related literature, and developed his own personality test to measure four important personality factors. The factors he chose were called dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance, from which the DISC theory takes its name. In 1926, Marston published his findings in a book entitled The Emotions of Normal People, which included a brief description of the personality test he had developed. Then, in 1929, he left academia and traveled to Universal Studios in California, where he spent a year as director of public services.
In the 1930s, Marston continued to popularize his approach to testing deception in such outlets as Esquire, Family Circle, and Look magazines. His favorite test subjects were sorority members: He would attend their clandestine initiation parties, at which the young women would tie one