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The Polygraph

(forgetting, for a moment, one cost me a job-unfairly, I think, back-in-the-day!)


The polygraph is an instrument which measures things like heart rate, perspiration, breathing and sometimes other body activity over which the person measured has little or no control.  A skilled operator (who should also be a skilled interrogator) uses these measurements to determine if a subject is telling the truth to certain, carefully worded questions.  It is not a lie detector, but a truth verifier.

Prior to 1988, many private companies utilized a pre-employment polygraph test, to determine if a subject was generally honest before hiring.  Some also used polygraphs post-employment, at random intervals, to see if anything had changed.  In 1988, Congress passed legislation limiting the use of pre-employment tests, with the exclusion of persons in  certain sensitive positions, security, police and a few other jobs.  Some States followed suit.

Many private companies were put out of business.

Having worked for a private investigations/polygraph firm for a number of years, it was an interesting experience.

First, some of the polygraphers (many of whom were retired law enforcement) thought themselves superior to the lowly civilian private investigators.

Second, I observed on numerous occasions, polygraphers watching job applicants arriving for a test, and making disparaging remarks, even before the interview or test began!

“This guy has liar written all over him!”

Hardly a lack of bias going in.

There was also a polygraph school adjacent to and affiliated with the investigations/polygraph company.  When I was first employed as an investigator, I was considering signing up for the school, thinking it might be an important addition to my investigative skills.  After observing and hearing the polygraphers, my interest waned.

This is not an indictment of all polygraphers, but just an observation based on some of those with whom I had negative encounters.

I suspect some of the laws have changed post 911, what with more agencies tasked with protection of the Republic from terrorists and spies.

I hope the current crop of polygraph examiners are more professional than some I encountered back-in-the-day.

We need all the help we can get.

About guffaw1952

I'm a child of the 50's. libertarian, now medically-retired. I've been a certified firearms trainer, a private investigator, and worked for a major credit card company for almost 22 years. I am a proud NRA Life Member. I am a limited-government, free-market capitalist, who believes in the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law.


6 thoughts on “The Polygraph

  1. Professionalism? You must be an elitist! 😉

    Posted by Rev. Paul | February 17, 2017, 9:39 am
  2. It is not a lie detector, but a truth verifier.

    Why not call them what they are – Whiz-Bang BS machines.
    They can’t be called anything else until they are *not* run by humans who may or may not have an agenda and a bias. The rub is, those don’t exist.
    The machine is flawed, coming from a time when some really smart people thought they could build machines that could do anything. They can sure do a lot but mind reading hasn’t been invented yet.

    Posted by KM | February 17, 2017, 4:10 pm
  3. It would be a long technical discussion but “lie detectors” don’t work … at least not on “lies”. But many non-techies are overly fascinated with “high-tech” and don’t want to give up a belief in “The Oracle”.

    At one point in my life, I had been a guinea pig on enough lie-detector tests to be able to control the results. I went from being a testee to a testor … of and unknown to those administering the interview. The machine was pretty much used to justify the interviewer’s opinion … much as drug dogs can be cued to also provide and justify a desired result.


    Posted by Quizikle | February 17, 2017, 7:03 pm

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