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Picks and Pans Review: Burning Questions: The Moment of Truth

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FOX’s hit new reality show puts contestants in the hot seat, grilling them with intrusive questions and testing their responses with a lie detector.

HOW DOES A LIE DETECTOR WORK? A polygraph monitors changes in the body—heart rate, sweatiness—as a person is asked and answers questions. Does a change necessarily equal a fib? No. “It isn’t a lie detector, it’s a monitoring device,” stresses Thomas P. Mauriello, a criminology expert at the University of Maryland. “A reaction doesn’t mean anybody’s lying.” Which is why polygraph results aren’t admissible in court. But as a game, says host Mark L. Walberg, “it’s fun.”

CAN IT BE FOOLED? Beta-blocker drugs can “dampen the physiological response,” says Mauriello. “But then you don’t respond to anything.”

WHAT WON’T THE SHOW ASK? No questions “where a minor can be affected,” says creator Howard Schultz. For example, a divorcé won’t be asked: “Have you used your child as a pawn to get back at your ex?”

IS THERE EMOTIONAL DAMAGE? “I haven’t seen anything like a Jerry Springer moment,” says Walberg, although contestants meet with counselors afterward. Ty Keck, a physical trainer and the show’s first contestant, says he felt “about a thousand pounds lighter” afterward. His regret: “We didn’t walk away with any money.”