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Pitfalls of the Lie Detector Part 2

Pitfall#2:  Polygraph examinations are based on a lie.  Well, really like a series of lies.

There have been no significant changes in the polygraph exam in  50 years.
One of the big pitfalls of lie detectors is that examinations are totally based upon deception by the examiner.  One thing the examiner will never admit to is that any and all “examinations” are interrogations.  Any interrogation is by nature confrontational and accusatory.  The examiner will not be honest with you about the methods being used on you.  You are being played right from the beginning.  You need to understand that the main objective of the polygraph exam is to extract damaging admissions from you.  If you admit to anything damaging the examiner will automatically deem that the examination was a success, and that you were deceptive.  This is the case whether you were deceptive or not.

In light of the above, if you are ever required to submit to a polygraph test (and hopefully you are not naïve enough to do this voluntarily) never, ever admit to any wrong doings or confess anything to the examiner or based on the examination.  Remember this: anything you say during a polygraph screening interrogation can and will be used against you. But guess what - unlike during regular criminal interrogations, our government denies you the right to have legal counsel present at a polygraph screening interrogation.  Just knowing that should be enough to keep you from ever volunteering for an examination.

Do not let them fool you – they (the examiners) are not that good at judging deception any more than any field investigator with a moderate amount of experience.  In reality, they probably are less reliable. How can I say that? In a test of 1,141subjects given polygraph examinations, less than 60% of these tests resulted in a correct decision rendered… (both) guilty and innocent.

So the facts are that polygraph examinations are just a little better than a 50/50 guess.  That is the scientific fact concerning these examinations.  But let’s look a bit more at some of the deception that goes on in some of these examinations.  In case you were wondering, results for blacks being examined are even worse!

Many (maybe all) examiners will use the polygraph as an interrogation tool. Almost always there is a “follow up interrogation” after the exam.  What they do is they ask subjects to explain why certain questions on the screening test might have disturbed them enough to cause a noticeably different response. This is where the examiner starts bluffing the test subject into giving some sort of damaging confession. In the stressful context of the polygraph examination, many people make the mistake of confessing damaging admissions. The people being examined often hope that after their conscience has been purged, they are thinking the polygraph will pronounce them truthful.  Little do they know that at that point it is too late. The problem is that these admissions and not the polygraph results are what almost always are used as the basis for not being recommended for employment.

All confessions to wrong doing – no matter how insignificant, are considered a “trophy” for the examiner.  They will all say that confession is “proof” for the examination.  So, to repeat myself, never, ever admit to any sort of wrong doing in a polygraph examination. The smallest thing you admit to will be blown out of proportion.  This will have serious adverse career consequences.

Remember, whatever you do, Stay Safe!

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