The Lie Detectors

The Lie Detectors Paperback CoverREVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS


Alder's masterful narrative relies not only on his clever selection of iconoclastic characters..., but also on his detailed treatment... [A]n engaging and informative read..., the ideal textbook for college-level seminars in a variety of disciplines, including political science, history, sociology, and psychology. The book provides a fertile ground for a multidisciplinary examination of a largely misunderstood device that has fascinated, and mostly misled the American public.
— Maura Pilotti, Metapsychology

Alder spins a yarn of scientific innovation and personal vituperation set against the backdrop of mid-20th-century America…. While painting a rich, complex portrait of these men, Alder remains admirably skeptical of the machine itself, which he says is a uniquely American invention, designed to satisfy "a nation obsessed by criminal disorder and political corruption."
— From Publishers Weekly

A historian of science whose account of the meter was hugely popular, Alder here wires up another fascinating story. A two-track approach guides his tale of the polygraph: the lives of two men who in the 1920s launched the "cardio-pneumo-psychograph," as one of them dubbed the machine, and American society's peculiar receptivity to a device that has never passed scientific muster…. This engrossing portrait of two lives ruled by the lie detector is enhanced by Alder's cultural clarity about the credence accorded to the mechanical confessional.
— By Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

The lie detector and its strange persistent grip on the American imagination offers rich material for Mr. Alder to work with. How many stories require William James, Gertrude Stein and Dick Tracy for the telling, not to mention criminals like the Torso Murderer of Cleveland? Stir into the mix a mutually hostile coterie of inventors, scientific visionaries and outright hucksters, and you have the ingredients for a heady brew.
- William Grimes, New York Times, 2 March 2007

In the early 20th century... scientists believed that they had found the perfect lie detector. The story of how they hawked it, using it for everything from crime catching to comic-strip plots, makes for a rollicking good time in Ken Alder's The Lie Detectors.
- Robin Marantz Henig, The Wall Street Journal, 24 March 2007

A "revealing, colloquial social history..."
- David Wallace-Wells, Washington Monthly, April 2007


Online interview at on the paperback edition.  
Twelve-minute interview of Ken Alder, on Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC, with guest host Julie Burstein, March 6, 2007. Play Interview
Hour-long interview of Ken Alder, on Diane Rehm Show, WAMU, with guest host Steve Roberts, March 8, 2007.

Play Interview
(Real Audio)

Play Interview
(Windows Media)