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The hidden truth: A sociological history of lie detection.

Weber, Susanne (2008) The hidden truth: A sociological history of lie detection. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

Drawing on Foucault and the sociology of science and technology, this thesis traces the curious attempt that has been made over the last century to capture one of the most elusive social acts - the lie. This endeavour was made possible by the emergence of the human sciences, whose guiding belief was that the subject's inner life could be made apparent by means of physiological measurements and therefore be controlled. My thesis follows the development of the 'embodiment' of the lie within early and recent psychology as a means of detecting the subject's guilt. It examines the disconnection of lie detection from its academic origins and its re-positioning within criminal investigation which engenders the development of polygraphy as a separate profession. In this, it elaborates on the special roles played by instruments in lie detection practices - the 'lie detector' and the 'polygraph' - and analyses changing epistemological aims and models of 'scientific' expertise. In accounting for its contested status, the latter analysis is connected to an evaluation of the continuous exclusion of lie detection as scientific evidence from the courts. The thesis examines the changing functions of the polygraph examination in systems of social control as their logic moves from reform to increased containment and control: from a confessional technique mediating the efficient processing of a delinquent population from the 1920s, to a disciplinary technique controlling employee behaviour from the 1930s. In recent years it has become a 'truth facilitator' in the management and containment of the monstrous individual: the sex offender. In a broader consideration of the power/knowledge mechanism of lie detection, the thesis applies Foucault's notion of grotesque knowledge, arguing that the ensemble of the lie detector/polygraph and psychological expert/interrogator is Ubuesque as it implements an absolute power in the 'diagnosis' of the lie, which is disqualified at the moment of its verification through confession. The thesis demonstrates how Foucauldian analyses and the sociology of science can be fruitfully combined to comprehensively explain both the dynamics of contested expert knowledges and the ways in which psychological techniques operate in shaping the subject. Having traced the emergence of the lie as an object of knowledge and intervention, the thesis concludes by providing directions in an historically informed sociology of the lie.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy, Philosophy of Science
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2147

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