John Larson's Polygraph

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In the 1920s crime was organized, and rising, but police forces where ineffective. The mafia in the United States had constant gang-wars and the police force was outgunned. Trying to get a confession, they used violence on the interrogated. Interrogation methods wasn’t working, and innocent people got hurt in the process of crime-fighting. A young man, a Mr. John Larson, was hired by the Berkeley police force as a police officer to use his background in Physiology and Biology to help them get confessions more effectively. He saw this request as an opportunity for more civilized interrogations. He soon got the idea of creating a machine that measured blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration of the interrogated. The machine would be able…show more content…
The investigation was about a series of thefts in a college sorority, and was nicknamed the ‘College Hall Case’. Larson used the polygraph in his interrogations, and all subject seemed to be innocent. Then, when he came to a ms. Helen Graham, his questions caused her blood pressure to drop, and she ripped of the pressure cuff and stormed out of the room in rage. A couple of hard interrogation sessions later, she admitted to the crime. The polygraph was immediately praised by the press, and became known as a lie detector. “Larson would soon come to doubt the effectiveness of his own creation, and he spent much of his career in a vain effort to deploy the instrument as a tool of psychiatric diagnosis. “Beyond my expectation,” he would write shortly before his death, “thru uncontrollable factors, this scientific investigation became for practical purposes a Frankenstein’s monster, which I have spent over 40 years in combatting.”(Ken Alder) Today, most psychologists and scientists argue that the polygraph is not effective, since there is many ways of fooling it. It is still important to remember that the polygraph has led to many great ideas. It has opened up for the police using psychology instead of violence in their investigations, and it has helped us understand physical responses for psychological happenings. On later years, a measure of skin conduction was added to help get good results. That aside, the polygraph has not evolved since the

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