NAS Polygraph

The polygraph business was dealt a near death blow in 2003, when a international organization of recognized experts published a book condemning the polygraph machine, its training techniques and its employment screening.

The NAS (National Academies of Science) is an organization of various types of experts from various types of fields from around the world. In 1863, President Lincoln created the NAS. It is located in Washington, DC. Its purpose is to examine, experiment and to report on any area when requested by any department of the U.S. Government. There are about 2100 members, including 380 members from around the world. Nobel Prizes have been awarded to about 200 members. Their purpose is to be a independent source of expertise to investigate a problem, evaluate it and to create a report on their findings.

In 2003, the NAS published a very long and detailed and book called “The Polygraph and Lie Detection”. After 90 years of use, the polygraph machines, its examiners, testing and training techniques and APA (American Polygraph Association) have created a firestorm of criticism and problems. The polygraph problems became so bad and so well known that in 1988, the U.S. government had to create a federal law called the EPPA, Employee Polygraph Protection Act. The law severely limits the use of the polygraph tests in the private sector. Even though the APA was created in 1965 to control their examiners, the dismal failure of the APA, after 20 years, forced the EPPA to be created. Even after the EPPA had been created 15 years earlier, the polygraph business still had not cleaned up their many problems. The NAS book dissects the polygraph machine, training, theories and examiners. The book exposes the many untruths in the polygraph business, including the falsehoods of the polygraph machine, training ideas, testing formats and lack of accuracy.

The following quotes are from the book: The Polygraph and Lie Detection. Those quotes, among many other facts, prove why no one should buy a polygraph to use, base a criminal case on a polygraph answer or use polygraph for employment screening.

“…the evidence is scanty and scientifically weak”.
Referring to accuracy using the polygraph for security testing for employees.

“Almost a century of research … provides little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy”

“most polygraph testing procedures allow for uncontrolled variation in test administration that can be expected to result in variations in accuracy…”

“The theoretical rationale for the polygraph is quite weak”.

“It (research) has not accumulated knowledge or strengthened its scientific underpinnings in any significant manner”.

Referring to the research done on the polygraph machines and training techniques, almost all by the polygraph business.

“The inherent ambiguity of the physiological measures used in the polygraph suggest that further investments in improving polygraph technique and interpretation will bring only modest improvements in accuracy”.

“…we believe that estimates of polygraph accuracy from existing research overestimate accuracy in actual practice, even for specific-incident investigations.”

“Accuracy may be highly variable across situations”.

“the evidence does not provide confidence that polygraph accuracy is robust against potential countermeasures”.

“Polygraph examinations may have utility …that they can get admissions or confessions…However, such utility is separate from polygraph validity.”

“There is no evidence to suggest that admissions and confessions occur more readily with the polygraph than with a bogus pipeline” (a object that a suspect thinks is a real lie detector)

“there is inconsistency about whether the polygraph test is being judged on its ability to detect major security violations or on its ability to elicit admissions of security violations of any magnitude”.
Referring to the polygraph being used for employment screening in the government.

“…federal agencies that use the polygraph for screening do not collect data in a form that allows data …to be used to assess polygraph accuracy”.

“…uncertainty about the accuracy of (employment) screening is greater than for specific-incident polygraph testing.”

“The relevance of available research to preemployment polygraph screening is highly questionable…”

“Basic science and polygraph research give reason for concern that polygraph test accuracy will be degraded by countermeasures, particularly when used by major security threats…”

“All of the physiological indicators measured by the polygraph can be altered by conscious efforts…”

“…successful countermeasures can be learnable”.

“Research does not clarify, however, whether users of countermeasures can be detected…”.