Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment [saj] pp1216-sebu-487650 May 9, 2004 12:23 Style ﬁle version Nov 28th, 2002
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 16, No. 3, July 2004 (
A Prospective Study of the Impact of Polygraphy on
High-Risk Behaviors in Adult Sex Offenders
and Brent Warberg
This study examined whether polygraph testing would result in sex offenders en-
gaging in fewer high-risk behaviors. Fifty adult male sex offenders taking part in
community treatment programs were allocated into 2 groups: “Polygraph Aware”
subjects were told they would receive a polygraph examination in 3 months regard-
ing their high-risk behaviors, while “Polygraph Unaware” subjects were told their
behavior would be reviewed in 3 months. Relevant behaviors for each subject were
established at baseline interviews, following which both groups were polygraphed
at 3 months. All subjects were polygraphed again at 6 months. The hypothesis
was that subjects in the “Polygraph Aware” group would have engaged in fewer
high-risk behaviors, based on their self-report during the examination. Thirty-two
subjects (64%) attended the ﬁrst polygraph examination, with 31 (97%) disclosing
an average of 2.45 high-risk behaviors each previously unknown to supervising
probation ofﬁcers. There was no signiﬁcant difference between the two groups.
Because of the high failure rate, all subjects were told to expect a second poly-
graph. Twenty-one subjects (42%) completed the second polygraph test, with 71%
disclosing an average of 1.57 behaviors, a signiﬁcant decrease compared with the
ﬁrst test. Disclosures to treatment providers and probation ofﬁcers also increased.
It was concluded that polygraphtestingresulted in offenders engaging in less high-
risk behavior,although the possibility that offenders fabricated reports of high-risk
behaviours to satisfy examiners is also considered; similarly, offenders seemed to
be more honest with their supervisors, but this only occurred after experience of
the test itself. Feedback from offenders who completed the study, taken together
Department of Psychiatry, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
S.O.S. Services, Inc., Marietta, Georgia.
To wbom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Forensic Psychiatry,
St. Nicholas Hospital, Jubilee Road, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, England NE3 3XT; e-mail:
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation