Does the polygraph lead to better risk prediction for sexual offenders?

TA Gannon, Anthony Beech, T Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


The polygraph is receiving increased attention surrounding its ability to facilitate more honest disclosures from sexual offenders concerning risk-related information (e.g., historical risk factors and acute-dynamic risk factors). In addition, the polygraph has become accepted as a standard containment tool in the US, although UK professionals appear to have taken a more cautionary approach. The aim of this review is to provide a basic overview of current risk assessment procedure in the absence of the polygraph, and then to investigate studies that use the polygraph to enhance sexual offenders' risk assessments. Specifically, studies examining historical risk factors, stable-dynamic fisk factors, and acute-dynamic risk factors are examined and evaluated. We conclude that there is reasonable evidence supporting polygraph use in some areas of risk assessment. However, the vast majority of studies suffers from serious confounds that should be taken into account by professionals who use the polygraph as a standard practice in sexual offender risk assessment and management. Finally, the future of the polygraph is discussed in light of the presented empirical evidence. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-44
Number of pages16
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • polygraph
  • treatment
  • sexual offenders
  • risk assessment


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