We seem to be inundated at the moment with media stories about celebrity polygraph examinations and not surprisingly, our clients are asking questions about the media examinations and why their tests process is so different to what they have seen in newspapers and on social media sites.
These are just some of the questions our clients have asked this week as a result of the media coverage.
Question: “Why can’t I be in the room when my partner takes the actual live test? On the TV there was the examiner and film crew as well as the audience. If they can be present, why can’t I?”
Answer: The polygraph examination is conducted in three phases, the pre-test, where the person who is being examined and any third party involved, for example, a partner in an infidelity test, are both present. During this phase the issue to be covered in the examination is covered in detail and the wording of the test questions is defined and agreed by all. The examinee is then asked a series of questions about their personal history and health and the polygraph equipment used in the test is demonstrated to the examinee. At this point the pre-test interview is concluded and any third party is required to leave the office or room, so that the actual test can commence.
For a subject to pass a polygraph test they are required to commit to concentrate on the process 100%. Now just imagine for a moment, you are the examinee, you have been either accused or suspected of wrong doing (theft or deception) or unacceptable behaviour (infidelity or drug taking) then could you really concentrate 100% on the examiners questions while your accuser is present. When part of your brain is understandably asking, “what will so and so think of my every answer”. No, of course you couldn’t. And that is why only a staged test is shown in the media – it’s not real!
That leads onto the second most commonly asked question this week.
Question: Why on the TV polygraph tests are the examiners asking questions like “Do you really love your partner, do you fantasise about other men/women, do you fancy me more than your last partner” Yet, on our test we are told that questions can only be asked on actions not emotions or intentions when I would like to know does he/she love me and are they being honest about their feelings towards me.
Answer: I don’t want to get political here but there is a certain high profile politician who has made the term “fake news” very popular. Well, the media polygraph tests should be labelled “fake tests”. They are presented as live tests when in fact no professional examiner would conduct the test live in front of the media and asking questions on emotions and intentions is simply media hype and manipulation, designed to promote scandal or emotional conflict between the examinee and the person/s they are questioned about. And, importantly, to manipulate you, the viewer to engage
your emotions in making a judgement of the examinee and his/her falsely perceived answers. Even to the point that you are maybe manipulated into spending your money to “vote” someone off a show.
The psychologists advising on these shows/interviews really do need to examine their ethics and consciences. Whether the participant in the tests are sports stars or minor media celebrities, they are people, with parents, partners (some on the same shows) and children and ridiculing them in front of the public, just because they have the power is nothing more than abuse both mental and physical.
I have nothing against a staged test if the media are open and honest about the process, perhaps just mentioning the fact the actual real test took place off air, if at all!
The results of a polygraph test can impact on peoples lives. We take that responsibility very seriously. We are not on the side of the person who pays for the test or the person to be tested, what we are on the side of is treating our clients with respect and delivering a verified outcome.
Please make sure you only instruct examiners registered with the American Polygraph Association and British Polygraph Association and the next time you see a test in the media, enjoy it, gossip about it but please don’t let the media manipulate you into believing it is real.