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George W. Maschke
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David T. Lykken, R.I.P.
Sep 21st, 2006 at 3:05am
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Renowned polygraph critic and author of A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector David Thoreson Lykken died on Friday, 15 September 2006 at the age of 78. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists writes about Lykken in the 20 September 2006 installment of the Security News electronic newsletter:
Quote:
DAVID LYKKEN AND THE POLYGRAPH MYTH

David T. Lykken, a psychologist who did pioneering research and
public education on the limits and abuses of polygraph testing,
died last week at age 78.

With exceptional clarity he demonstrated that the polygraph is not
a "lie detector" but simply a recorder of physiological responses
to verbal stimuli.  And, he explained, there is no set of
physiological responses that corresponds uniquely to deception.

That does not mean the polygraph is worthless.  There is empirical
evidence to support its use in the investigation of specific
incidents, where "guilty knowledge" of particular details may
be usefully revealed by the polygraph.

"The use of the [polygraph] by the police as an investigative
tool, while subject to abuse like any other tool, is not
inherently objectionable," Lykken wrote.

(Not only that, "It seems reasonable to conclude that whether
O.J. Simpson did or did not kill his wife could have been
determined with high confidence using a Guilty Knowledge Test
administered within hours after he was first in police custody.")

On the other hand, he said, the use of the polygraph for security
screening of personnel, as is commonly done by U.S. intelligence
agencies, cannot reliably achieve its purported goal of
identifying spies or traitors and in many cases becomes
counterproductive.

"I think it is now obvious that polygraph testing has failed to
screen out from our intelligence agencies potential traitors and
moles.  On the contrary, it seems to have served as a shield for
such people who, having passed the polygraph, become immune to
commonsense suspicions."

Lykken produced a body of work that is prominently cited in every
bibliography of polygraph-related research.  And he addressed the
interested public in a highly readable 1998 book called "A Tremor
in the Blood" (an allusion to Defoe), which is full of colorful
observations as well as analytical rigor.

So, for example, he reports that Pope Pius XII condemned polygraph
testing in 1958 because it "intrude[s] into man's interior
domain" (Tremor, page 47).

And "when Bedouin tribesmen of the Negev desert were examined on
the polygraph, they were found to be far less reactive than
Israeli Jews, whether or Near Eastern or European origin" (page
273).

Dr. Lykken was profiled in a September 20 obituary in the New York
Times here:

     http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/20/obituaries/20lykken.html

It is a sign of our times that the scientific critique of
polygraph testing has gained almost no traction on government
policy.  To the contrary, the use of the polygraph to perform the
sort of screening that Lykken termed a "menace in American life"
is actually on the rise.

"From FY 2002 through 2005, the FBI, DEA, and ATF conducted
approximately 28,000 pre-employment polygraph examinations" as
well as tens of thousands more for other purposes, according to a
major new report from the Justice Department Inspector General.

See "Use of Polygraph Examinations in the Department of Justice,"
September 2006:

     http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/polygraph/dojpoly.pdf

Characteristically, the new Inspector General report did not even
consider the question of the polygraph's scientific reliability.

In particular, as George Maschke of AntiPolygraph.org told CQ
Homeland Security, the Justice Department report failed to
grapple with a 2002 finding of the National Academy of Sciences
that "[polygraph testing's] accuracy in distinguishing actual or
potential security violators from innocent test takers is
insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security
screening in federal agencies."

     http://www.cq.com/public/20060919_homeland.html

Aldrich H. Ames, the former CIA officer whose years of espionage
against the United States went undetected by the polygraph,
reflected on the mythology of the polygraph in a letter that he
wrote to me from federal prison in November 2000.  See:

     http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/polygraph/ames.html



AntiPolygraph.org is grateful for the encouragement and support Professor Lykken provided over the years, especially the valuable commentary and suggestions he provided regarding the initial draft of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector. He will be sorely missed.
  

George W. Maschke
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George W. Maschke
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Re: David T. Lykken, R.I.P.
Reply #1 - Sep 21st, 2006 at 7:17am
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The Minneapolis-Saint Paul Tribune has published the following obituary:

Quote:
http://www.startribune.com/466/v-print/story/690907.html

David Lykken, U of M psychology professor
He helped to debunk the use of polygraph tests in court and show the inherited traits of twins raised apart.

Curt Brown, Star Tribune

In 50 years of scientific study, retired University of Minnesota Prof. David Lykken changed the way society views everything from lie-detector tests to adult twins, sociopathic criminals to happiness.

Lykken, 78, died Friday in his sleep from heart failure at his Minneapolis home.

Research by Lykken, a behavioral geneticist and professor of psychology and psychiatry, helped to debunk the use of polygraph tests in court and showed that twins separated at birth have, at times, astonishingly similar inherited traits.

"He was a brilliant guy, rigorous, always cheerful and open-minded about so many things," said Prof. Thomas Bouchard, who co-authored more than two dozen scholarly papers with Lykken.

Joe Lykken, an Illinois physicist and one of David's three sons, said: "His ambition when he went into psychology was to make it more respectable by grappling with the big issues of how to study human behavior in a more scientific, quantitative way -- and he succeeded to a large extent."

For his doctorate dissertation, Lykken (pronounced LICK-en) went into Minnesota prisons to study the impulsiveness and fearlessness of so-called "psychopaths," pioneering research that has mushroomed into a trove of scientific literature.

In the late 1950s, Lykken zeroed in on lie-detector tests and, before long, he was traveling around the country, testifying about the machines' flawed science before Congress and at countless trials. He helped several defendants find justice after being falsely accused through failed polygraph tests.

The first such case involved an Arizona man accused of rape. Lykken convinced jurors that his strong polygraph responses involved the charges against him and reference to the woman's name, not deception.

"Nature did not equip us with some sort of Pinocchio's nose, an involuntary reaction that accompanies lying but not truth-telling," Lykken wrote in his autobiography.

Instead of simply being a critic, Lykken devised a Guilty Knowledge Test that cleared innocent subjects and identified guilty people by studying physiological reactions to multiple-choice questions whose answers only the guilty party would know.

Lykken's work on the ongoing Minnesota Twin Study attracted the most attention, although he usually spurned TV or speech appearances. Lykken, Bouchard and their associates studied more than 130 sets of twins who had been raised separately.

Two named Jim wound up owning poodles with the same name. Two middle-aged sisters were not only afraid of water, but both also would walk into the water backward, turning around only after their knees were wet.

In his 1999 book "Happiness," Lykken theorized that everyone has a set point for happiness. While winning the lottery or losing a loved one will cause a short-term dip or spike, grumpy people will return to grumpiness and gleeful types will revert, as well.

"Find the small things that give you a little high -- a good meal, working in the garden, time with friends -- and sprinkle your life with them," he wrote.

When Harriet, his wife of 53 years, died last year, Lykken plastered his apartment with pictures of his favorite breed of dog -- bull terriers.

"He said it cheered him up whenever he looked up," said his son Joe.

Besides Joe, Lykken is survived by sons Jesse of Minneapolis and Matthew of Chicago.

A private family funeral is planned for Saturday.

Curt Brown 651-298-1542 curt.brown@startribune.com

2006 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.
  

George W. Maschke
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Re: David T. Lykken, R.I.P.
Reply #2 - Sep 21st, 2006 at 7:58pm
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I am sad to hear of Dr. Lykken's passing. He was an incredible writer and a prolific academic of the first order...

As the obituaries have noted that beyond his polygraph he did pioneering work in statistical methods, psychophysiology, behavioral genetics, psychopathology, and crime and parenting. Some of the more conservative posters on this board should note that Dr. Lykken advocated for parental licensing, an obviously controverial position. He also ran a successful counseling practice for many years for those who think he was only an ivory tower egghead...

If you get a chance, read his online autobiography. I would link to it but his University of Minnesota website has been taken down, for obvious reasons. In it, he mused of what his life would had looked like had he taken an offered position with CIA back in the early 50's rather than the academic post he took at UMN. Somehow, I think that the polygraph would not be as prevalent as it is now in national security...

Dr. Lykken laid the groundwork for abandonment of CQT polygraph screening, it's time that the rest of the academic community picked up the mantle and lay this pseudoscience to rest before it causes more harm to national security and public safety...

I would say more but I think I'll go read A Tremor in the Blood instead and be comforted by the fact that the man led an exemplary life in academic and community service and left behind an incredible legacy...
  
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Re: David T. Lykken, R.I.P.
Reply #3 - Nov 19th, 2006 at 4:25pm
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digithead,

The University of Minnesota psychology department has set up a memorial page for David Lykken:

http://www.psych.umn.edu/people/faculty/lykken.htm

It includes a link to his professional autobiography, which may be downloaded here:

http://www.psych.umn.edu/faculty/lykken/Autobiography.pdf
  

George W. Maschke
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Re: David T. Lykken, R.I.P.
Reply #4 - Jan 19th, 2007 at 2:02pm
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The Association for Psychological Science Observer has published a fitting tribute to David Lykken in its January 2007 issue:

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?id=2119
  

George W. Maschke
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Re: David T. Lykken, R.I.P.
Reply #5 - Jan 29th, 2007 at 8:02am
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The APS Observer pieces refer not only to Lykken's contributions to the fight against what, after AIDS, is North America's most serious social disease, but also to his many other significant contributions to the discipline of psychology.

Except for my piece, all other contributors had been supervised by this remarkable academic.  In http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/~furedy/Papers/ob/lykken06.doc, I draw some parallels between the supervisory styles of Lykken and my own late supervisor, the Australian Professor Dick Champion.  One parallel that I omitted is that both preferred not to use fulsome and repeated praise that may work with children, but which do not work when the supervised is regarded as a responsible adult with particular intellectual skills of his or her own that require the respect of the supervisor.

All the best, John
  
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