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Q: Polygraph testing ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Polygraph testing
Category: Relationships and Society
Asked by: marina51-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 26 Jun 2006 21:34 PDT
Expires: 26 Jul 2006 21:34 PDT
Question ID: 741332
I took a lie detector test.  My domestic partner and I have had some
issues and it came out that I lied about a sexual encounter that I had
with a common friend a couple of months into our relationship.  I kept
this info from him and it took 18 months for him to finally get it out
of me and I confessed.  Since then nothing I do or say has been
trustworthy to him and he does not know if he can ever establish trust
in me again.  I suggested I take a polygraph test.  I thought this
would be the best way for me to vindicate myself and show him once and
for all that I was telling the truth.  I took the polygraph test and
felt totally at ease.  We had to wait 5 days for the results.  I was
so sure and righteous that I was going to make my boyfriend eat the

3 questions were asked:

1) During my entire life did I ever have sexual contact with "A"

2) Since (month/year) did you have sexual contact with anyone besides
your current partner?

3) Since (month/year) did you have sexual contact with "B"?

The resultant answers were:

1 - Deceptive Response
2 - Truthful Response
3 - Inconclusive Result

I was totally blown away by the results.  I have been totally truthful
and honest with my domestic partner since I confessed to him about the
meeting I had over 2 years ago.  Since then it has been above board.

We both divorced for one another and it has taken it's toll on both of
us, clearly.  Yes, we have seen counsellors and they have suggested
that we are both too filled with guilt to truly enjoy one another.

In any event - my question is about this lie detector test and how it
could possibly be that wrong!  I'm willing to take another but, after
the first one (when I thought I was so right), I'm not sure anymore. 
Just what ARE the validity of these tests?  How much stock can one put
in the results?
Subject: Re: Polygraph testing
Answered By: webadept-ga on 27 Jun 2006 00:52 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

The polygraph test is based on the premise that when a lie is told,
there is a measurable biological stress level associated with the act.
These reactions are believed to be; an alteration in the blood
pressure, heart rate, respiration and skin conductivity. These changes
are also related to anxiety, stress and excitement. Realizing that
many subjects are under stress, or naturally anxious during tests or
scrutiny, the tests normally start out with what is called baseline
questions, so that the operator of the test can determine what
recorded changes could be related to telling a lie, and what might
just be a stress reading.

Very few countries see the polygraph test as "evidence". In the U.S. a
polygraph test can be used during an investigation, but it is not
mandatory that a person submit to the test, nor is it nationally
accepted as evidence in court. The U.S. Supreme Court left it up to
individual jurisdictions whether the results of any test are
admissible evidence. No country in Europe sees polygraphs as reliable
evidence, and they are not generally used by police forces. Canada
also does not view the polygraph test as an accurate tool for the
determination of truth or guilt.

The American Polygraph Association maintains that the test has a high
degree of accuracy, but does admit that errors in readings do occur

--"While the polygraph technique is highly accurate, it is not
infallible and errors do occur. Polygraph 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
polygraph charts. 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." -- from the FAQ page.

On the same page when discussing the accuracy of the process, this
group cites a study done in 1984 "The Accuracy and Utility; of
Polygraph Testing. (1984) Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense,
1984." -- Apparently there was another study done and given to
Congress in 2000 ...

--"In 2002, a panel from the National Academy of Sciences were charged
with "conduct[ing] a scientific review of the research on polygraph
examinations that pertains to their validity and reliability, in
particular for peronnel secutiry screening." The panel's findings were
compiled into the report, "The Polygraph and Lie Detection," and
presented to Congress and the Department of Energy.  The panel found
polygraph testing to be unscientific because it lacked fixed
standards.  After reviewing the available data and studies on
polygraph testing, the panel concluded: "Almost a century of research
in scientific psychology and physiology provides little basis for the
expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy."
 Further, there was little hope for advancing polygraph testing. 
According to the panel's findings: "The inherent ambiguity of the
physiological measures used in the polygraph suggest that further
investments in improving polygraph technique and interpretation will
bring only modest improvements in accuracy." --

--"United States v. Scheffer, 523 U.S. 303 (1998).  The United States
Supreme Court examined the admissibility of polygraph results in
court, stating:

The contentions of respondent and the dissent not withstanding, there
is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable. To this
day, the scientific community remains extremely polarized about the
reliability of polygraph techniques. Some studies have concluded that
polygraph tests overall are accurate and reliable. See, e.g., S.
Abrams, The Complete Polygraph Handbook 190-191 (1968) (reporting the
overall accuracy rate from laboratory studies involving the common
"control question technique" polygraph to be "in the range of 87
percent"). Others have found that polygraph tests assess truthfulness
significantly less accurately ? that scientific field studies suggest
the accuracy rate of the "control question technique" polygraph is
"little better than could be obtained by the toss of a coin," that is,
50 percent. "--

So the idea that you have had a bad experience with a lie detector
test is certainly not far fetched. It sounds like it was probably a
very stressful situation, and heavily associated with strong emotions.
Under such conditions, the reading of the physiological changes would
be difficult to get a base line on, or interpret.


Polygraphs and the National Labs

American Polygraph Association FAQ page

How does a lie detector (polygraph) work? (unfortunately it reads more angry than informative,
but there is some good information on the website)


marina51-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Thanks for your very thorough investigation and links!

Subject: Re: Polygraph testing
From: probonopublico-ga on 26 Jun 2006 22:04 PDT
Sadly, as you have discovered the hard way, Polygraph Testing is not 100% accurate.

I don't know what to suggest as your best way forward but ...

Good Luck!

Subject: Re: Polygraph testing
From: frde-ga on 27 Jun 2006 06:10 PDT
My inclination is that you have a problem with your boyfriend.

The idea of taking a polygraph is absurd
- if he does not trust you then he has a problem
- if he does not 'forgive' you (or give you the benefit of doubt) then
you are incompatible
Subject: Re: Polygraph testing
From: markvmd-ga on 27 Jun 2006 08:05 PDT
Right on, Frde! Testify!

Marina51, teach this guy to heel or dump this jerk. He's acting like a
spoiled eight year old. Worse, because eight year olds learn to fogive
and move on. He's getting his jollies by torturing you and you are
allowing it. Set some limits, lay down the law, make him toe the line.
Subject: Re: Polygraph testing
From: irlandes-ga on 01 Jul 2006 15:12 PDT
MY late brother-in-law (referred to below) worked for some years as a
police officer, then the rest of his life as a corrections officer
(i.e. -- prison guard). We once talked about polygraph testing, and he
told me NEVER agree to take one. They are basically guesses, and it is
real easy for an innocent person to show "guilty". He said most police
know this, and use them for psychological advantage. He added he
himself would never trust one, and did not think anyone else should,

My opinion on this problem is slightly different than those who
automatically dump on the man in this case as in every other case.
Sounds to me like you are a matched set, both breaking up marriages
for each other.  I worked in the 60's with a man and woman who gave up
marriages for each other. The man never stopped roaming, and the woman
admitted she knew what he was like when she left her first husband.
So, you both knew what you had when you left your first spouses.  And,
you should also know what YOU are.

This is why everyone of us has heard many times the importance of
marital fidelity. Those rules were not just based on ancient religious
superstitions, but also on historical experience of all the misery
that people experience when they make their own rules. We have seen
some real misery in these pages, and the questioners really can't
expect anyone to clear up the mess they made, especially when there
are kids involved.

I do agree you might possibly better off getting away from each other.
 The problem is unless you adapt a more conservative life style, which
takes time and patience, you may well end up in a worse mess than this
one.  And, if you are a bit older, you may find it hard to find a mate
at all. (This is based on Bureau of Vital Statistics figures showing
rapid drop in marriage rate.)

Once you stray outside traditional roles, it is a lot of work to get
back in. The same impatience and impulsive behavior that got you into
a real mess keeps you from doing what is needed to get back in.

It can be done, but it is not easy.

Most people who have made a mess of things simply keep on making a
mess of things. I find it very sad when I compare their unhappy lives
to those of people who stick with their marriages.

My own sister when she was 21 left her husband for a 42 year old man.
21 years later, when she was 42 and husband was 63, she left him for a
21 year old man -- who the minute he discovered his absolutely great
lover was filing for divorce, and expected him to help raise kids
almost as old as himself, disappeared.  Last thing I knew she had a
toothless live-in who has spent time in prison -- good job, sis!

And, if she had waited a year, her second husband died within that
time, and his  $50,000 insurance policy went elsewhere. That fling
cost her, um, almost $1,000 a week. Or, if we count not that year, but
the time of the affair, it comes down to a lot of money per minute.
Subject: Re: Polygraph testing
From: maluca-ga on 06 Jul 2006 12:59 PDT
Lets see here. You divorced for one another which means you were
messing around while married. Then you fooled around after you got
together legitimately.
Now you want to know why a piece of equipment can't be honest with
you. I could probably give you a pretty close answer as to whats going
on but I think you already know.

Being a decent person takes work but is well worth it. Start making
some decent choices with consideration as to the probable outcome if
you don't. If you live in the moment you will spend much more time and
grief regreting it. Your worth more than this and you know it. Every
blessing has a curse and every curse has a blessing. Being shown what
does not work could be your blessing here. Don't turn your back on the

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