By Larry Shea
A polygraph machine, or what is more commonly referred to as a lie detector, does not detect lies. A polygraph machine “merely measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration, and skin conductivity.”
During the testing procedure, a person is asked to answer a series of questions which are divided into control questions and relevant questions.
In 1991, a two-thirds majority of experts, with the requisite scientific background to evaluate polygraph procedures, considered the use of the polygraph procedure to detect lies to be “pseudoscience.” That is, two-thirds of these qualified scientists considered a polygraph or lie detector test to be fake science!
More importantly, confidence of the scientific and legal community in the effectiveness of a polygraph test has declined even further since 1991. In the 1998 Supreme Court case, the United Sates vs. Scheffer, the majority of the Supreme Court stated that “there is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable.” In fact, “the Supreme Court summarized their findings by tating that the use of polygraph was ‘no more accurate than a coin flip.”’
“NO MORE ACCURATE THAN A COIN FLIP!”
At best polygraphs are measuring physical metrics. These physical metrics can have a variety of causes including nervousness, anxiety, incidental worries or concerns, discomfort, medications, fever, and exercise.
Ultimately, all that a polygraph procedure is going measure or detect is physical arousal. The polygraph procedure will not be able to detect the physical metrics of someone who either believes in their own lies or who has no conscience about telling their lies. Psychological research overwhelmingly demonstrates that human emotions cannot be reliably measured. A polygraph machine is no exception: A polygraph machine cannot measure emotions either, “especially when one has an interest in hiding his/her emotions, the idea of valid detection of truth or falsehood through measuring respiratory rate, blood volume, pulse rate, and galvanic skin response is a mere pretense.”
Because a polygraph procedure is only measuring arousal, one way to beat the procedure is to stay very calm, relaxed, confident, and friendly towards the technician giving the test. It is also a good idea to get a good night’s sleep before taking a polygraph.
There is also another simple technique that can be used to beat the polygraph; 1) Stress yourself out when answering the control questions. 2) Calm yourself down when answering the relevant questions.
Some folks may recall Aldrich Ames, the former CIA counterintelligence analyst who spied for the Soviet Union and Russia. Although Ames failed to pass several polygraph tests, for which no action was taken, he also passed two polygraph tests. When Ames was asked how he had beaten two polygraph tests, he replied, “There’s no special magic…Confidence is what does it. Confidence and a friendly relationship with the examiner.”
His Soviet handler advised him “to be cooperative and maintain your calm.” In fact, “from 1945 to the present, at least six Americans have committed espionage while successfully passing polygraph tests.”
Another famous example of the ineffectiveness of the polygraph test is that of Gary Ridgway, the Green River killer and necrophiliac. Ridgway passed his polygraph test in 1984, and only confessed 20 years later when he was confronted with the evidence of his DNA. During the 20 years that followed his passing of the polygraph test, Gary Ridgway murdered seven additional women.
For more info on how to beat a polygraph test, see https://www.antipolygraph.org/