- What does a polygraph examination consist of?
A polygraph instrument will collect physiological data from at least three systems in the human body. Typically, convoluted rubber tubes that are placed over the examinee's chest and abdominal (above the heart and below the heart) area will record thoracic activity. Two small pads are attached to the fingers or palm that will record changes in skin sensitivity caused by a light sweating of the hands, a photoelectric plethysmograph (PLE/PPG), a finger sensor is used to measure the rapidly occurring relative changes in pulse blood volume, and a blood pressure cuff will record cardiovascular activity.
A typical polygraph examination will include a period referred to as a pre-test, physiological monitoring phase and an analysis phase.In the pre-test, the polygraph examiner will complete required paperwork and talk with the examinee about the testing process and the information surrounding the issue(s) to be resolved. During this period, the examiner will discuss the questions to be asked and familiarize the examinee with the instrument and testing procedure.
During the chart physiological monitoring phase, the examiner will administer and collect several polygraph charts for analysis. Following this, the examiner will analyze the charts and render an opinion as to the truthfulness of the person undergoing the examination.The examiner will offer the examinee an opportunity to explain physiological responses in relation to one or more questions asked during the examination.
Are there errors in polygraph examinations? (False Positive, False Negative)
Today, polygraph testing remains the most accurate means of developing and verifying the truth and detecting deception. Several articles have been published to support this. A list can be found on the American Polygraph Association (APA). The Department of Defense’s analyses of the validity and reliability from data collected from either live or actual tests and mock or laboratory tests reveal the accuracy is an amazing 98%. While the polygraph technique is highly accurate, errors can occur. Errors may be caused by the examiner's failure to properly prepare the examinee for the examination, or by a misreading of the physiological data on the charts obtained. U.S. Government studies have concluded that the single-issue (one question) polygraph exam, conducted properly by a qualified examiner, is most accurate. Accuracy of the multi-question exam drops to around 80 percent due to a number of psychological factors. These statistics do not include "inconclusive" results in which no opinion can be made from the polygraph charts, which happens about 10% of the time.Errors are usually referred to as either false positives or false negatives. A false positive occurs when a truthful examinee is reported as being deceptive; a false negative when a deceptive examinee is reported as truthful. Research indicates that false negatives occur more frequently than false positives; however, other research studies show the opposite conclusion.
Since any error is damaging, examiners utilize a variety of procedures to identify the presence of factors which may cause false responses, and to insure an unbiased review of the polygraph records:
An assessment of the examinee's emotional state
Medical information about the examinee's physical condition
Specialized tests to identify the overly responsive examinee and to calm the overly nervous
Questions to evaluate the examinee's response capabilities
Factual analysis of the case information
A pre-test interview and detailed review of the questions
Quality control reviews
Who should take a polygraph test?
What are "countermeasures"?
The unauthorized and undisclosed use or non-use of drugs, alcohol, subtle movements, self-induced pain or conflict and mental gymnastics are all considered countermeasures. Countermeasures do not help an examinee taking a polygraph change the final result. Instead, competent well-trained polygraph examiners are trained to look for the telltale indicators of attempts to alter the appearance normal physiological activity in the body, which makes for a conclusive finding of deception.
How old does someone have to be?
Will a medical condition affect the examination?
A polygraph exam does not cause any direct injury to the person being tested. The only discomfort is a standard blood pressure cuff which goes on the arm and is typically inflated for less than six minutes at a time. There are increased stress levels during the testing process, which should be considered. Some medical conditions are sensitive to increased stress levels, such as some heart conditions. Depending on the medical condition, an approval from the treating physician prior to conducting an exam on someone may be recommended. Typically, pregnancy does not affect the examination; however, it is stressful and a consultation with a physician is recommended before undergoing an examination.
Can a pregnant woman undergo a polygraph examination?
Pregnancy does not affect the outcome of a polygraph exam unless the fetus is making excessive movements or causing pain to the mother. As a standard practice, for liability reasons only, we do not examine a pregnant woman. Exceptions have been made in the past as long as the mother knows and waives any liability on the part of the examiner and PolyTest Services of Texas, LLC. If an examination is required, a note from the woman's physician stating that there are no complications from the pregnancy and that the stress of undergoing a polygraph would not impact the health of the mother or fetus may be required prior to the examination.
Does a person's high blood pressure affect the polygraph test?
Will drugs or alcohol affect the accuracy of a polygraph test?
If you are taking any medication you need to inform the polygraph examiner prior to beginning the test. Physiological effects that drugs have on people are immediately seen in polygraph chart tracings. Irregular physiological recordings must be satisfactorily explained. Take any medications as prescribed and do not alter their use for an examination. The use of medications, illicit drugs, and/or alcohol will not assist someone to beat a polygraph test. Polygraph examiners utilize certain procedures during the examination to ensure that each person undergoing an examination is responding naturally throughout the testing procedure.
What affect does being nervous have on the exam?
Everyone who submits to a polygraph is nervous but for many different reasons. The polygraph instrument measures changes in a person's physiology during the course of the test. Nervousness is a generalized condition which exists throughout the entire exam, not just on one or two questions. Because nervousness exists during the entire test process, it will not affect the test score. Extreme nervousness, however, may cause a person to fidget or not sit still during the exam, and this could distort the test enough so that the results cannot be analyzed. In general, though, being nervous will not change a person's test results. Most people are nervous when doing anything new for the first time.
Innocent: Although most truthful persons believe they should pass a polygraph test, they are often worried that something might go wrong. This doubt will cause the person taking the test to experience a heightened sense of anxiety about the test itself. This kind of nervousness is normal and has no effect on the positive outcome. This is generally relived during the pre-test phase when the examiner explains the process, testing procedure, develops and reviews the questions used. The innocent person knows what the truth is.
Guilty--Intending to Lie: Guilty persons are nervous also, but for a very different reason. The guilty tend to be afraid they are about to be exposed. When a guilty person’s bad actions are exposed, that guilty person will frequently suffer some negative consequence as a result of having done a bad thing. Being nervous about being exposed or about being punished for having done something wrong is also normal but it tends to help expose the guilty and deceptive.
How long does a polygraph examination take?
What questions will be asked of me during a polygraph exam?
How many issues can I be asked about in one examination?
The most accurate test which can be conducted is the single issue test. If more issues must be explored, more questions must be asked if they are related, or another exam must be designed and conducted following the first one. This usually adds to the time and cost involved. An effect called "anti-climax dampening" makes test results less reliable with an increase in the number of relevant test questions. A healthy individual can only produce readable polygraph charts for a limited period of time. After this time has expired, it is not possible to generate a conclusive polygraph test and any further testing must be scheduled for a different day.
Why does the examination cost so much?
Polygraph examiners are highly trained professionals, most with college degrees, who provide a very specialized service. This service requires the examiner to purchase expensive equipment and pursue continuing education in order to maintain a high degree of proficiency and licensing. The process of asking "just one question" could take hours, due to the diagnostic process involved, so a single exam often takes an examiner an entire working day (including travel). In most cases, the polygraph is performed because there simply is no other reasonable way to get the desired information, such as when there is no evidence one way or the other, or when it is simply a "he-said-she-said" situation.
For example, a person might spend thousands of dollars on surveillance, investigation and other investigative means while the same information could be obtained for a fraction of the price with polygraph, resulting in thousands of dollars saved. The fees charged for polygraph testing are reasonable when considering the cost of training and equipment, degree of specialization and worldwide need for this unusual service.
Are the polygraph results admissible in court?
It depends on which court and the level of evidence being evaluated. Federal courts have ruled that polygraph is not per-se inadmissible in a court procedure, but that it may be considered when standard rules of scientific evidence have been met. Applicants must apply to the judge for admissibility under the "Daubert" standard of evidence on a case-by-case basis. Individual judges can still decline to accept polygraph results. Civil and Family courts have a different level of evidence and admissibility can vary. In most cases, polygraph evidence is used during pre-trial negotiations and plea bargain agreements rather than during the trial itself. For more information go to the American Polygraph Association website.
Is the polygraph exam confidential?
Do I get the results of my test?
In each case a polygraph examiner should always tell the examinee the results. In cases where examinee has a problem with a question, the examiner should bring that problem question to the attention of the person taking the test so as to give them a specific opportunity to resolve that problem. A written report of the examination is available if requested.
Should someone prepare for an examination?
For best results, a person taking a polygraph should be well-rested and free of any extraordinary fatigue or stress factors on the day of the exam. This means getting a good night's rest, eating normally, and avoiding stressful incidents (arguments, interrogations, emergencies) prior to the exam. We suggest postponing the examination until the cause of any physical pain has been remedied, rather than attempting to control the pain with medication. If the examinee is taking regular prescription medications he/she should continue taking those medications as prescribed. If the prescription medications are taken infrequently "as needed" then we generally advise not to take these medications until after the exam. Aspirin or other mild over-the-counter medications should have no affect on the exam.
What should I look for when hiring an examiner?
Make sure the examiner has a current license if it is needed in the state where the examination is to take place. The examiner should also be "certified." Every examiner must attend a polygraph training program, preferably one certified by the American Polygraph Association. After graduation, the examiner must conduct a certain number of exams during an "internship" period. After the internship, the school reviews the examiner's work and grants the certification if this work was done to standards. After certification, most examiners must complete a certain amount of continuing education or advanced training programs. Be aware of an examiner who's been operating for 25 years but has not undergone regular advanced training. Technology changes and examiners must keep current. Look for professional affiliations and membership, such as the American Polygraph Association (APA), the American Association of Police Polygraphists (AAPP), or other similar groups which set professional standards for their members. These associations will also certify the examiner based upon their competency, training, and expertise. Look for an examiner who is certified in several areas, which shows extended training and experience. Make sure the examiner has experience with the type of exam you need.
What is the Employee Polygraph Protection Act?
The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, (EPPA) is a federal law that was passed to ensure that an employee’s rights would be protected during a polygraph situation and to develop the terms under which most employees could be polygraph tested. This law is a good law so far as it goes to establish reasonable circumstances under which employees may be examined.Polygraph examiners who do employment related examinations must be very familiar with this law and follow the law to the letter. Fines and punishments which are given to those business and examiners who intentionally violate the EPPA are substantial. Employees who are asked to take an employment related polygraph test should be provided a copy of their rights under the Employment Polygraph Protection Act by the test requester or the examiner.
Can a polygraph be required for employment?
The Employee Polygraph Protection Act allows for some pre-employment screening and in some cases, periodic polygraph screening of employees. There are questions that are allowed and others that are not allowed to be asked or covered. No examiner should inquire into any of the following areas during pre-employment or periodic employment examinations:
Religious or affiliations beliefs
Opinions regarding racial matters, political beliefs or affiliations beliefs, affiliations
Lawful activities regarding unions or labor organizations
Sexual preferences or activities
In a law enforcement pre-employment polygraph examination, the questions are based upon the job description for the position applied for and focus on such job related inquiries as the theft of money or merchandise from previous employers, falsification of information on the job applications, the use of illegal drugs, and other criminal activities. The test questions are limited in the time span they cover, and all are reviewed and discussed with the examinee during a pre-test interview before any polygraph testing is done. There are no surprise or trick questions. If information exists that needs to be verified, a specific issue polygraph examination is developed using relevant questions that focus on a particular act in question.
How do I get a polygraph examination done?
Contact me by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call me directly 866-738-8495. We will need payment by debit or credit, in cash or money order before the examination and in some cases, a deposit will be needed before we will schedule the appointment. I will contact you to schedule your appointment for a mutually convenient date and time. Any remaining balance of the test fee is paid directly to me prior to the examination.
Cancellations made less than 24 hours in advance of the examination will result in any fees paid being forfeited.
What is Computerized Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA)?
Starting about 40 years ago, serious efforts were made to use the voice to detect deception. Many devices were marketed for this purpose. The most widely advertised devices have been the Psychological Stress Evaluator (PSE), the Hagoth, the Mark II Voice Stress Analyzer (VSA), and the Computerized Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA). CVSA is not and should not be associated with polygraph testing in any way. The preponderance of evidence indicates the polygraph is far more accurate at detecting deception than voice stress analysis. No Department of Defense agency uses any form of voice stress analysis for investigative purposes. There is no known published scientific research study that confirms voice stress tests provide results any better than chance (the flip of a coin). Go to the American Polygraph Association website to review the latest information concerning CVSA.
Is a copy of the video obtained during the examination available?
Each session and examination is audio and video recorded for both the examiner and the examinee’s protection. The recording his held in the examination file and not released to anyone unless the file is being quality controlled by another examiner for court purposes, or an association like the American Polygraph Association (APA) to resolve a complaint about the examiner or about how the examination was conducted. Otherwise, it is not released without a court order.
Can I be in the exam room when someone else is being examined?
No, once the examination starts, only the examiner and the examinee will be in the exam room. This is done to assure the examinee that the process is fair and impartial, and to help the examinee to disclosed information that would resolve the situation.
Are a list of references available?