Polygraph Tests Dont Lie, People Do!

Yes, I’m well aware that we as examiners want to bury the term “Lie Detector” in favour of “Truth Determinator, or “Truth Determination,” and for the record, I am completely in agreement with that side of the team. I still cringe when someone from the public calls it a “Lie Detector”, or our profession as being “Lie Detectors.” But let’s face it, the opposite of telling the truth is what? Yep, lying, and although we don’t like to present our work in that fashion, most sources use our expertise to make sure the person being tested, is not lying. Now it would obviously take groups of psychologists who make such studies Words of Wisdom A Polygrapher’s Most Important Gift … People Lie!

As examiners, I don’t think we have that degree of psychological expertise to discuss that quality of cerebral science. But because of our training, and even more, because of our work experiences, we have obtained a good amount of knowledge, and understandings. We might say that the history of criminal acts is sprinkled with crafty and seasoned liars. Many are criminals who spin lies and weave deceptions to gain undeserved rewards. Sometimes people lie to inflate their image, a motivation many might think is best to explain President Donald Trump’s assertion that he reported in the news that his inauguration crowd was bigger than President Barack Obama’s. I started thinking about this statement because of a good deal of what people are calling “White House News,” seems to have brought a good deal of fabrications and falsehoods into our everyday lives.

The concept that human beings possess a talent for deceiving one another shouldn’t surprise us. I remember reading an article years ago that said researchers speculate that lying as a behavior arose not long after the emergence of language. The ability to manipulate others without using physical force likely brought about an advantage in the competition to obtain resources, and even to the point of obtaining nuptial mates. Let’s face it, “Lying is so easy, compared to other ways of gaining power.” I got a kick out of a guy I tested years ago, who told me that he didn’t like the term “Lying,” and preferred to refer to this as, “Just bending the truth a little.” I have to tell you that is the term I thought about when I first heard the weird term, “Alternative Facts.” Of course, as we know, there’s all kinds of motivations why the people we test lie, here’s some I thought of. Probably the largest group lie because of: “Personal Wrongdoing or Transgression” – Lying to try to get out of trouble, or keep from getting caught. Some lie for “Economic Advantage” – Lying for financial benefits. Some for “Personal Advantage” – Benefits beyond money, power, position. Others for just simple “Avoidance,” – Lying To escape, to avoid being found out, or just plain to avoid getting caught. There are some that lie for “Self-Impression” – Like saying things to shape a positive image of themselves. Some of course are “Pathological” – Have reality problems, or “Malicious” – Lying to purposely hurt people. I’m sure there are tons of others, but let’s say these are the popular ones.

In getting back to the White House Era problems, we could talk about President Richard Nixon, who denied involvement in the Watergate Scandal when he declared, “I am not a crook” during a nationally televised press conference. Other famous fibs might note when our current president stated on a number of occasions “I won the popular vote, if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” It has been reported of course numerous times, that he won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, and there’s no evidence of any such voter fraud. Then there’s President Bill Clinton, whose also famous statement in 1998 was, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.” An example of “Avoidance” comes to mind that happened just a couple years ago by an American Olympics Swimmer during the Summer Olympics in 2016, who claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint at a gas station when in fact, he and his teammates, who were drunk after a party, were confronted by armed security guards after damaging property. I saw this on a TV news report. In turning again to President Trump, there’s no surprise that one lie can lead to another and another, as evidenced.

Much of the knowledge we use to navigate our lives comes from what others have told us. And of course, there has to also be a degree of trust. Without this implicit trust that we place in human communication, we would be paralyzed as individuals or examiners and even cease to have common or social relationships. I’m saying that we of course, also have to be trusting, and not absolutely hardwired, and refuse to believe or trust anyone at any time. Here’s where training and experience comes into play. Of course, there’s still caution to talk about. Researchers have shown that human beings are especially prone to accepting lies that support their own views.

There are still apparently a number of people who seem to believe Donald Trump’s early belief in the claim that President Obama was not born in the United States, or the spread of other “Alternative facts” as Trump advisors called his inauguration crowd claims. The interesting point about this is that debunking anything like this does not demolish their belief. It’s obvious that there is a human factor in play, that if a fact comes in that doesn’t fit into their frame of belief, they will either not notice it, or ignore it, or ridicule it, or be puzzled by it, or worse yet, attack it if its threatening. Early this year I found a published study that I think was from the University of Western Australia on all this that was pretty interesting. It documented the ineffectiveness of “Evidenced-based information” in refuting incorrect beliefs. It stated that in 2015, 2,000 adult Americans were presented with one of two statements: One was: “Vaccines cause autism” and the other one was, “Donald Trump said that vaccines cause autism.” (By the way, the study also noted that Trump has repeatedly suggested there is a link to this and autism, despite the lack of scientific evidence for it.) However, not surprisingly, participants who were Trump supporters showed a decidedly stronger belief in the misinformation when it had Trump’s name attached to it. In looking back at all these issues, many of which we address everyday in our work as “Truth Determinators,” and to stop and think about all this, and to realize the benefit we give to society, humanity, and even the world, becomes an obvious realization of the importance of our profession.

What then might be the best way to impede the advance of untruths into our society? The answer is clear that we have to “Strive to be the best, the most advanced and trained examiners,” to combat this obvious traffic flow for deceit. Technology continues to develop, and we as professional specialists need to make sure we involve ourselves in these technological discoveries. We at the American Polygraph Association are blessed with amazing experts to keep us on track with ever developing technology for our profession. Raymond Nelson, Mark Handler, the efforts by Donald Krapohl, and the list goes on and on of individuals who over the years continue to work to upgrade technology, and regularly share their knowledge, innovations and expertise. In addition, we are also blessed with excellent product manufacturing of polygraph instrumentation like “LafayetteLimestoneStoelting and Axciton” that are also working on modernization’s and updates. A rather interesting discussion took place during a recent APA Executive Board teleconference, APA Website where the issue of the value of test scoring was debated. Significant information was presented during the discussion that the technology of computerized scoring algorithms involved in test conclusions, is absolutely and most strongly accepted by the scientific community, and well over human hand evaluation. The point is that Technology continues to advance, and we obviously need to embrace advancement also.

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