One of the major concerns for any polygraph test is accuracy. Whether you are taking the test yourself or waiting on the results of someone else’s test, you want to ensure that there are no factors that get in the way of a correct result. For this reason, polygraph examiners receive training in spotting attempts to “trick” the exam, and they also take steps to ensure that outside factors, such as medications, illegal drugs, psychological conditions, physical conditions, and the emotional state of the test subject, do not affect the ultimate results. Here are answers to some common concerns that clients express before taking an exam.
Can nervousness make me appear guilty when I’m not?
No. Being nervous about taking an exam is common, whether you plan to lie or tell the truth, but if you are feeling nervous, you will be nervous throughout the test. If you are lying or telling the truth for each question, your internal body reaction will be specific for that answer, so your nervousness and this reaction will appear differently on the charts.
Does high blood pressure affect the results?
No. Blood pressure is one of the physiological reactions that is measured during the polygraph exam, but having high blood pressure will not affect the results. Just like with nervousness, your blood pressure will appear high throughout the exam. But if you are taking medication for your high blood pressure, it’s in your best interest to disclose this to your examiner so he or she can evaluate its effect on the test.
Can you take drugs to “beat” the exam?
No. Contrary to some claims, anti-depressants such as Lithium, Prozac, Valium, Ritalin, or Xanax will not trick the machine. During the pre-test process, the examiner will notice skewed results and can determine whether or not the polygraph can be accurately given while the subject is on the drugs. In most cases where drugs are used illegally in an attempt to “beat” the test, the examiner will give an “inconclusive” result and may recommend that a drug test be given before a second exam.
Should I stop taking medications before the exam?
If you are on medication prescribed by a doctor, you should continue to use them as you normally do, but disclose this information to the examiner. The effects of the drugs should not affect the results of the exam, but the examiner will be aware in case he or she has any concerns about accuracy.
Can the test subject use pain to attempt to beat the exam?
They can try, but examiners are aware that people attempt to fool the test by self-inflicting pain, such as pricking themselves with a tack, and are on the look out for any suspicious behaviors or movements. Additionally, most often the subject’s deceptive responses will create more measurable responses than the pain does during other questions.
Trained polygraph examiners take protective measures to ensure that the exam is unbiased, which is why it’s so important to ensure that you hire a polygraph examiner who has received proper training and is a member of a recognized organization, such as the APA, NPA, or a local polygraph association.
In my next blog, I’ll explain the protective procedures that polygraph examiners take and also the recourses available if you believe that your polygraph exam was incorrect.