Confessions of a Lie Detector: Years of Theft, Sex, and Murder Paperback – May 19 2011
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WARNING: This book contains descriptions of sexual assault and harm to children.
Confessions of a Lie Detector is a non-fiction book describing the experiences of the author, a polygraph examiner with over 30 years of experience. It's an interesting look at a little-known and misunderstood science. Wygant presents cases ranging from petty theft to murder and shows how under the right circumstances, almost anyone can be caught in a lie.
Some of the most interesting parts of the book are not the cases themselves, but Wygant's own speculation on the nature of lying and why we do it. He describes some of the different types of lies that people frequently tell, and what effect they can have on both the liar and the person being lied to. He shows a lot of compassion for the people who "fail" his tests, which I think allowed him to give a more balanced take of the consequences of lying. One of the first things he tells the reader is that often, when a polygraph test shows a client is probably not being truthful, they are relieved rather than angry. Keeping up with a lie can exact a tremendous toll on the person telling it. He also points out that we are sometimes pressured into lying by loved ones who don't really want to know the truth.
I did have some trouble with the graphic nature of some of the crimes described, but that's merely a warning, not a criticism. I do feel that the descriptions given were necessary parts of the book. However, people with sensitivity to certain subjects may find it hard to read. There was also a lengthy chapter describing in detail the investigation into a murder in which polygraph in general and the author in particular didn't seem to play a particularly important role. It did not fit the general flow of the book and ended up feeling like filler.
My verdict: proceed with caution. There is some interesting information and speculation in this book, but the reader must have a true interest in the subject to stick with it, and some content may be upsetting.
As many, I suppose I have always been enthralled with the science behind the forensics in law. Part of the popularity of CSI, Bones, Crossing Jordan and many of the other shows that fascinate the nation brings to light the men and women behind the scenes finding the ever elusive clues to DNA, different materials, types of drugs and many other factors or evidence that is found at the scene of various crimes.
So popular are these shows that classes for this type of work have also filled up and created more of a glut of knowledgeable experts on the subjects. I am sure that because in order to popularize a show there must be glamour and so what we see is not the real crux of the work involved. Murder and crime are a serious business and it is important to have the right people in place to help evolve the evidence as it comes in.
Yet with all the machines and people, background testing is not always a perfect science. One of those `sciences' is known as the polygraph. In especially high profile cases, we often hear about the lie detector tests, and yet the polygraph is used much more than we know. In Confessions of a Lie Detector by Jim Wygant, we follow Jim though some of his most interesting and important cases. He is quite candid about the system and the difficulties of the assessments. As with any use of equipment, it is only as good as the operator and understood that the same is true of the reading of the charts.
Wygant gives a candid overview of the process and the years of work and detail, he has dealt with as he worked through his many cases. While Wygant stated that there were a few times that he felt actual danger during the process from the person tested, it is gratifying to know that human nature often wins out. Lying is difficult for most people and in many of Jim's cases, it seems as though the guilty were relieved to finally come clean.
From his years in the business, Wygant has given an extremely detailed and interesting look at the people behind the tests as well as the people who take them. To me it was quite fascinating and very much like the forensics that I am often caught up in. If you like forensic, and enjoy reading true-life crime drama, you will enjoy the work behind this book.
It is intriguing and interesting giving us a glimpse into the psyche of many of those accused of theft, murder and sex crimes. We are given the reasoning of why the polygraph cannot be used in court cases, and we are also given to understand that even without this possible permissiveness it is still a standard used in many cases throughout the country.
Wygant writes and fills the pages with interesting and unique information as only an insider can. The polygraph takes a mind to understand the graphs and read the information, and yet many may not follow the set guides, and use varying guidelines. It is both fascinating and absorbing and if you enjoy the backdrop of forensics, you will enjoy this book.
This book was received as a free copy from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.