Some people can’t help telling lies, and lately, a lot of those people seem to be politicians. That’s why the government wants to know if lie detectors (polygraphs) really work.

In, Christopher Wanjek writes that “good liars have little to lose and everything to gain from taking a ‘lie detector’ test. It’s the truthful people who need to worry about polygraphs [because] a polygraph not a lie detector; it never was.”

A polygraph measures respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure and skin response. It can detect physical reactions to lying only if the people being tested react with a racing heart and sweaty fingers, and the final determination is always subjective, open to interpretation by the polygraph examiner, who is often wrong because, as Wanjek says, “The anxiety associated with ‘oh no, they will detect that I’m lying’ is rather similar to ‘oh no, they’re going to think I’m lying when I’m not.'”

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