Friday, October 31, 2014

The lie detector determined that was a LIE!

Polygraph tests have been around since 1921, and have been serving us with very questionable data since then. A polygraph test, or more popularly known as a lie detector, is designed to pick up when someone is telling a lie. This mechanism, in theory, can hold great power when it comes to criminal cases in court, police investigations, and employers who are interviewing prospective workers. The legality of the polygraph test varies between states. A machine that can accurately detect a lie is revolutionary, but the reality of it is it is a very poor method of obtaining truthful data.
In 2007, only 19 US states allowed polygraph examinations to be used in federal court, and only at the discretion of the trial judge. Polygraphs are used commonly in police investigations, but no individual can be forced to undergo an examination unless they have granted permission. The way polygraph tests operate is by measuring several physiological indicators such as blood pressure, pulse and respiration, and skin conductivity. The theory is that if an individual is telling a lie, the indicators will produce a response that is different than if the subject had told the truth. This method is arguable at best;  it operates under a legal gray area. It is not a completely reliable source and in many cases, can incriminate the innocent and let free a criminal. 
Interestingly enough, there are several places in southern Jersey where we can take a polygraph test. They advertise "specialty in infidelity/family issues and workplace theft" (see link below). In my opinion, polygraphs can serve us with a guideline or ballpark estimate, but certainly should not be used as a reliable source in searching for the truth. Polygraph tests can also serve us with great entertainment! (see video).

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