Frequently Asked Questions - Answers
1. What is a
A. The polygraph is a scientific instrument which is designed
to record and display physiological responses to test items. Modern
instrumentation is computerized and includes specialized software to aid the
What does the polygraph instrument record?
A. The polygraph consists of 4-6 channels of physiological
data. Respiration is recorded with two corrugated tubes placed around the
body, one just above the heart and the other over the stomach. . Changes in
skin moisture are monitored with sensors placed on the fingers or palms. Pulse
and relative blood pressure are detected using a standard blood pressure cuff
placed on the upper arm. Many instruments also record changes in capillary
dilation using a finger sensor and all polygraphs now include sensors to detect
3. How accurate is the polygraph?
A. There are several polygraph
approaches and applications and polygraph accuracy is not the same for all of
them. In a meta-analysis conducted by the US National Research Council, median
accuracy was placed between 85% and 90% for event-specific testing. Polygraph
research that evaluated techniques in which testing was conducted using
empirically derived practices suggests accuracy somewhat above 90%. Lower
accuracy is expected in multiple-issue and screening testing, though those
accuracies are a function of how many relevant questions are used and how broad
they are. As with all assessment methods, accuracy can be affected by the
training and competency of the testing examiner. The highest accuracy may be
achieved by an examiner who graduated from an accredited polygraph education
program, completed an internship with direct oversight, maintains proficiency
through continuing education, passes a rigorous licensing examination, uses only
validated testing protocols, and subjects all polygraph work to independent
review. Examiners who have also published peer-reviewed research, served on
professional boards, and have extensive instructor experience are more likely to
produce quality work. Examiners without a solid educational foundation, who
disregard continuing education, are not members of established professional
organizations, or who make extravagant claims of accuracy are usually operating
outside of best practices.
4. I have been told it hurts to take a polygraph test. Is that
A. In the past some people were
uncomfortable with the pressure they felt from the blood pressure cuff with the
older instrumentation. Modern computerized polygraph uses much lower
pressure. Complaints about pain from polygraph testing are very rare today.
How long does a polygraph examination take?
A. The majority of polygraph
examinations conducted will take between 90 and 120 minutes, however, depending
on the circumstances surrounding your case we ask that all examinees plan on
spending four (4) hours per session.
many questions are on the test?
A. It depends on the type of test being
given; the science associated with a particular technique will determine the
number of questions which are allowed. As a general rule you can expect between
two and four questions about the test issue along with a small number of other
questions included for technical reasons. Every polygraph question will be
discussed with the examinee prior to any data being collected to ensure that the
examinee understands the scope of the questions and the answers that will be
given. No surprise questions should ever be asked on the examination.
How much does a polygraph examination cost?
A. As with all professional services, fee structures can vary
according to the type of service, time involved, complexity of service and the
expertise required. Please give us a call to discuss your needs, and we can
explain our competitive fees at no obligation.
8. I work nights. Will that affect the test?
A. We want you to have a normal amount
of sleep prior to taking an examination as being extremely fatigued may have an
impact on your ability to concentrate. If you work nights, share this with your
examiner and arrangements will be made to work around your schedule.
9. I have a medical condition. Can I still take the test?
A. Generally, the answer to this
question is yes. However, there may be times when your examiner will have you
consult with your doctor prior to taking the exam. If you have any questions
concerning a medical condition please discuss them privately with your
10. Should I stop taking my medications before my scheduled
A. No. Please continue taking all
prescribed medications as directed by your doctor. On the day of your
examination your examiner will discuss this further with you.
11. I am a really nervous person. Can I still take a test?
A. Yes. Everyone who takes a polygraph
examination is nervous. It is natural and expected. The examiner will walk you
through every step of the polygraph process to ensure that all of your questions
are answered and your needs are met.
drugs or alcohol affect the test?
A. Under certain conditions drugs and
alcohol may produce inconclusive results. As a matter of course, polygraph examiners defer until later
any testing of individuals whose ability to focus on the examination is
substantially degraded for any reason.
13. What should I do to prepare for my upcoming polygraph?
A. Continue your normal day-to-day
activities. Do what you can to arrive for your examination without the
distractions of fatigue, hunger, or discomfort. Get a good night’s rest
beforehand. Continue taking your prescriptions, and make a note of what they
are as they may be discussed during your interview before testing takes place.
14. Will I know what the questions are before you ask them to
me on the test?
A. Yes. Examinees hear, and agree to,
each test question prior to testing. There is never a surprise question asked
during the test.
you beat a polygraph examination?
A. It is true that all things made by man
can be defeated. The biggest challenge for beating a polygraph, however, is
that it entails a significant risk of detection which, in these days of
sophisticated software and recording equipment, makes success far from certain.
Indeed, trying to affect the results can make things worse. Recent scientific
research offers little hope for people relying on websites and books on how to
beat the polygraph, and there is some evidence that the use of these methods by
truth telling examinees reduces their chances of passing the test. For these reasons
we discourage examinees from trying to affect their test results.
16. How long does it take before I know the results?
A. Upon the completion of the
examination your examiner will evaluate the data and provide the client with a
diagnostic opinion. If a written report is required it is normally completed
within two business days for routine examinations.
What is EPPA?
Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) generally prevents employers from using
the polygraph, either for pre-employment screening or during the course of
employment, with certain exemptions. Employers generally may not require or
request any employee or job applicant to take a polygraph, discharge,
discipline, or discriminate against an employee or job applicant for refusing to
take a test. To learn more about EPPA please visit the United States
Department of Labor website for further details.
18. Does South Carolina have a polygraph license law?
A. South Carolina requires examiners to
obtain a license in addition to other requirements that protect the public.
Clients considering polygraph testing should verify the licensing status of
19. Polygraph isn't admissible in court, right?
A. Not exactly. The polygraph can be
admitted as evidence in a court proceeding in many jurisdictions when both the
prosecution and defense stipulate or agree that it can be admitted. This is
typically accomplished by reaching an agreement between the parties before the
polygraph test is administered. In addition, New Mexico allows the
polygraph to be admitted without the stipulation of the parties under certain
circumstances. Finally, many jurisdictions permit a party to seek admissibility
on a case by case basis.
20. If I take an examination from you is it confidential?
A. Yes, the test is completely
confidential. Disclosure of the results is limited to those listed in an
agreement signed by the examinee and the examiner prior to the examination.
21. Are polygraph and a voice stress device the same thing?
A. No. Research over the past 50 years
has supported the polygraph when used under proper conditions and with valid
testing protocols. In contrast, scientists researching voice-based devices have
conclusively debunked them in both field and lab studies. Based on government and other research, there
are now dozens of US government polygraph programs for national security and
public safety. What is telling is that there are none for voice-based devices,
and they have been explicitly banned by the Department of Defense due to their
22. Can someone be with me when I take the polygraph?
A. You can have someone accompany you to
the examination site. However, third parties are not permitted in the test room
except when they are necessary for the conduct of the exam (e.g.,
interpreters). By special arrangement we can record the session in addition to
providing remote audio/video monitoring, subject to conditions and