What Data Form the Basis of Results in Polygraph Tests? For centuries, humans have looked for a reliable method to distinguish lies. In very old Hindu and Chinese communities, authorities “detected” lies by making the subject to chew a grain of rice and spit it out. A dry grain of rice would indicate the dry mouth of a liar. In India, if rice stuck to the mouth, it would be a sign of guilt. Though these methods were ancient and non-scientific, they however stressed the elementary theory humans make in lie detection: lying may be detected by observing physiological signs. Each time a person lies or is asked a critical question, his heart can begin to race, elevating the body’s blood pressure. The test subject may as well as hold his breath, take in a deep breath, or perspire. Such physiological irregularities are recognized by the polygraph to be interpreted by the polygraph examiner. It is the discretion of the examiner to associate the sudden data changes with dishonesty. Cardiovascular Activity
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To record blood pressure and heart rate, an encircling, air-filled cuff will be placed on the upper arm. Changes in blood pressure affect the air pressure in the cuff. Such changes are recorded by the polygraph machine and then displayed on a computer monitor, together with respiratory and perspiratory data.
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Respiration The subject’s respiration pattern is recorded by two pneumograph devices which capture thoracic movement or volume change when a person is breathing. One pneumograph tube goes around the chest while the other is strapped around the abdomen. As with the arm cuffs used for detecting cardiovascular changes in a subject, the pneumograph tubes are air-filled while connected to the machine. The polygraph machine records every change in the tubing air pressure as the subject inhales and exhales. Perspiration The measurement of sweat, scientifically called the measurement of galvanic skin resistance, is made possible by attaching a two-piece galvanometer to two of the subject’s fingertips. The galvanometer functions by sending a small electric current into the skin from one fingerplate and recording the amount of current that was able to reach the other fingerplate. Dry skin is a bad conductor of electricity. However, when a person perspires, the water and salt from his sweat lowers his skin’s resistance, allowing a greater amount of electric current to travel on the skin surface. In other words, whatever amount of electric current is recorded by the galvanometer, indicates the amount of sweat that fingertips of the subject produced. Although not completely accurate, polygraph tests are often used by as an instructive tool by government authorities and especially law enforcement agencies. With the advancements in technology, humans will be able to better connect the psychological state of lying with physiological manifestations.