The Polygraph As A Truth Detector

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					                                     Presented by Daniel Toriola

   Polygraphy has not been shown to reliably distinguish between truth and deception in healthy individuals, there
   is no reason to expect that these "machines" are reliable when used on people with chronic medical conditions.
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                                     The Polygraph As A Truth Detector
                                               By William Trevino

    The Polygraph As A Truth Detector by William Trevino

The polygraph as a truth detector



The B.C. Civil Liberties Association believes that there is convincing evidence to suggest that the use
of the polygraph is arbitrary, subjective, biased toward accusations of guilt and claims of very high
validity are scientifically indefensible. However, even if one is not willing to be persuaded by evidence
on these matters, one must admit, at the very least, that there is no scientific opinion whatsoever
concerning the validity of polygraph testing. In fact, there is extremely wide divergence over the validity
of the test.

In these circumstances, the onus is clearly on the proponents of the polygraph test to establish a
convincing scientific case for the claims of high validity that are made by polygraph operators. In other
words, the burden of proof rests with the lie detector industry to satisfy the scientific community and
legislators that there is convincing evidence to support claims of ninety percent or greater accuracy
that are commonly made by polygraph operators. Without such agreement, it seems utterly
irresponsible to allow the use of such a device in situations where it may ultimately interfere with the
liberty of innocent citizens.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association urges the Government of British Columbia to follow the example of
Ontario in banning the mandatory use of polygraphs by employers in the province. We would go
further: since the evidence we have presented throws considerable shadows of doubt on the
usefulness of the polygraph test per se, we see no useful purpose for the procedure as either
screening procedure for police candidates, or in the court system generally, both of which are uses
allowed by Ontario, though there is no convincing evidence in support of the test in any situation.
Ontario's compendium of information, including the Morand Report, in their 1983 amendment to their
Employment Standards Act leads one to conclusions very similar to the B.C. Civil Liberties
Association's: the polygraph test is a humbug of subjective, arbitrary and contradictory procedures that

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does not detect lies or guilt any more effectively, and in many cases not as well (because of procedural
and machine bias), as interviews and cross examination that are already common tools of psychology,
police work and the courts. The compounded danger in the instances of polygraphs lies in the
sanctioned role that untrained persons with crude devices play in harrying innocent persons in
commercial and legal settings. To paraphrase an expert, it is the idiocy of idiocies. We urge its removal
as an avenue of arbitrary persecution.

The background

The polygraph procedure and machine is an accretion of 1930s technology and popularized
psychology rooted not in practices of modern science, but rather based on the traditions of polygraph
testing itself. In that sense, a polygraph examination is a self-fulfilling process, "measuring" a series of
physical signs without the machine and drawing subjective, psychological sounding conclusions in
varying ways depending upon the mental state and set and training of each, and the rapport between
both, the examination subject and the examiner. The result of this exercise, associative of the
monitoring machines of Scientology, is a series of conclusions about the veracity of specific statements
or guilt generally, conclusions unsupportable by consistent scientific logic or by confirmation by other
means. In fact, there is convincing evidence to suggest that the procedure is much more likely to
create victims of false allegation than it is likely to detect purveyors of falsehood or paragons of
guilt-however falsehood or guilt may be defined. The statistical illustration at the end of the paper
provides an illustration of this phenomenon.
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                                              What’s New With Handheld Devices?
                                                           By Mark Robinsson

Handheld devices are undoubtedly becoming more and more popular with the people of this world.
That is because handheld devices give people the convenience and portability that they need from
their equipment.

 For example, notebooks are becoming more popular with society because it allows a person to have a
computer with them anytime and anywhere that they need them. Notebooks are useful for several jobs,
like writers and even graphic designers, since these people need to be in a place or state of mind in
order to be able to work effectively. Writers particularly need to be somewhere they can think clearly so
that they can write.

 Another handheld device that is popular among people is the mobile phone. With the mobile phone, a
person need not spend some time looking for a landline in order to be able to make a call. With a
mobile phone in hand, as long as they have the credits and the signal is good, it is possible to make a
call even when you’re in your car driving home or to work. Mobile phones have also made it possible
for families to be able to communicate with each other no matter where they may be.

 Almost everything has been compacted and turned handheld these days. Everything, including lie
detection devices.


Perhaps one of the most controversial innovations to handheld devices is the PCASS. It is short for
Preliminary Credibility Assessment Screening System. It is famous because of its deployment to the
US military stationed in Afghanistan in April of 2008.

 Specifically, it is a commercial hand-held personal digital assistant. However, the PDA includes wires
and sensors that are then connected to the hand of the person being interrogated. It works almost just
like an actual polygraph; it shows the word “Green” for truth, and “Red” for lie. It also has a middle
ground, in which it says “Yellow” if it cannot read anything from the person’s response.

 According to the military, they made an investment in PCASS – it had bought 94 units by the time the
MSNBC reported about the device in April of 2008 – to protect the U.S. Military and preventing
“enemy” supporters from infiltrating the ranks of the American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

How Does It Work?

 The PCASS hand-held polygraph, like mentioned earlier, works just like a real polygraph. It has three
sensors: two electrodes and one pulse oximeter. The electrodes are attached to the skin, and are
designed to find out if the person being questioned is undergoing stress which is what most people feel
when they are about to lie or is uncomfortable with the question. The pulse oximeter, on the other
hand, is used to calculate the rate of heartbeats – another sign of stress.

However, the PCASS does not have a device for detecting sudden changes in breathing, which is
what makes it different from an actual polygraph.

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 One feature of the PCASS is, aside from giving truth or lie answers, is that it also displays the previous
question that elicited the response. This is useful for record-keeping purposes.


 The PCASS has garnered a lot of criticisms from different sectors. For one, they are considered to be
risky for use by American personnel. According to the MSNBC report, critics are citing the lack of
polygraph training for the intended users of the device which are simply enlisted personnel in the US
Army. While polygraph interrogators in the Defense Department undergo a long training course in
order to qualify, the enlisted soldiers who will be using the device have only a week to train in the
usage of the device.

 Second, critics also consider the device as less reliable than polygraph tests. That is because the
PCASS reads physiological reactions differently from a real polygraph. It is also very simple, and very
reliant on a computer to make decisions. As they say, “to err is human but to really foul things up you
need a computer.” This simply means that you cannot trust a computer to do some things that require
human intuition and understanding. Since it uses a computer, it can still be fooled by countermeasures,
which can otherwise be prevented by human thinking and decision-making.

Mark Robinsson writes for It's a technology blog about consumer electronics.

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