Home lie detector tests – are they reliable?

lie detector tests

These days there are lots of options online to buy so-called home lie detector test kits; you can type in home lie detector kit to any search engine and options to purchase will be available from amazon, various websites and drop shipping retailers.

There’s no doubt that this seems a convenient and quick option, with no need to share any personal information or details with a third party and at a lower cost to employing the services of a polygraph agency. So, what’s the catch and how reliable are home lie detector test kits?

As far as using these kits for a party and a bit of a fun, they are a great idea as long as you don’t read too much into the results or use them to tackle genuine concerns and areas of conflict in your relationships and friendships.

They can bring a different dimension to a friendly gathering and a laugh whilst you try to work out who really played that high school prank 20 years ago! But caution is advised if you wish to use the home lie detector kit to dig deeper into aspects of your, or other’s life that have significant meaning or consequence as lie detector testing takes a bit more than a piece of equipment to achieve accurate answers.

It’s difficult to say whether these kits actually work or are genuinely capable of what advertisers claim without technically assessing every single kit on the market, so we won’t go down that road in this article! However, we can look at the basic premise and requirements of polygraph testing to see how a home lie detector test would stack up in terms of providing you with a reliable and valid result, and that’s what this article is going to look at now.

Firstly, there is the issue of subjectivity; if you are undertaking lie detector testing yourself, you are personally and emotionally invested in the result. You have prior suspicions and things that you want to hear or don’t want to hear. Your life and feelings will be directly affected by the result so it’s unlikely that you are going to be objective and neutral when you ask the questions of the subject or when you determine the result.

Problems with home lie detector kits

This also impacts on the subject; if the person asking the questions is their accuser or someone connected to that accuser, they are going to already feel targeted and under suspicion. They may feel that they need to show you just how much they are committed to their answers, to say the things you want to hear or anxious and stressed with emotions undoubtedly running high and conflict and acrimony present. This will affect their responses and potentially lead to inaccurate results.

A Polygraph Examiner is a professional and independent person; they have no connection to the accuser or the subject. They are not invested emotionally in the situation and there is no consequence for their own life no matter what the result.

The subject is not going to perceive judgement from the examiner and can be open and honest with them with no fear of reprisal. A Polygraph Examiner can work with the subject to calm them down and support them through the testing process and can view the behaviours of the subject and the data that the test results in, in an objective, neutral and scientific way. There will not be bias and the subject can know that they are going to receive a fair test where there is no pre-empted conclusion and the accuser can know that the result has come from a professional and objective examiner. 

The environment provided is crucial to the accuracy of a lie detector test; this doesn’t mean that it has to be spotlessly clean and furnished to the highest standards.

This means in terms of emotional and personal influence and bias not being present. A professional polygraph examiner will ensure that only they and the subject are present for the actual test; this is important as it prevents the impact of the subject feeling watched over by their accuser or feeling unable to talk about the issue in question openly and honestly.

If the whole family are stood around waiting for the result, or if the questions are being asked by the person who has accused you of cheating on them or a friend or relative of the accuser, or if the interview is being recorded for social media or sharing with other persons involved, this will prevent a clean environment from being provided that is conducive to an accurate result.

In addition to this, polygraph testing is about more than just asking questions you want answers to. There is a huge and historic body of research, studies and learning behind contemporary polygraph testing that has led to the development of techniques and methods to achieve the greatest possible accuracy in lie detector findings.

The question formulation is important to achieving answers and therefore physiological responses that can allow the detection of deception; if a question in unclear or ambiguous, or if it inadvertently poses more than one obvious question within its wording, this will lead to confusion and potentially bodily changes that indicate deception when a person is being honest.

Equally, it can allow a guilty person to manipulate the question within their own processing to make it so that they can perceive themselves as answering honestly and therefore provide physiological responses that indicate this. Question wording and language used needs to adhere to certain principles and guidance within lie detector testing to ensure accurate results; a polygraph examiner will know this and be able to formulate your questions into the correct format and wording to achieve this. You won’t.

The format of the question sets utilised within lie detector testing has been developed through research and study. There are various models of questioning format that need to be used to address different issues or to tackle tests that involve one specific issue (ie. Did you steal the £20?) or multiple faceted tests (ie. Did you steal the £20 or do you know who did steal the £20?).

The format of questioning involves several different types of questions; these questions are asked in specific orders to best create the environment and circumstances conducive to the detection of deception and the triggering of physiological response in a guilty person. If these techniques and formatting are not followed it is unlikely that you will achieve clean and reliable data from lie detector test.

The polygraph examiner will also be using more than just data to make their decisions; a good polygraph examiner will have a background and hopefully qualification in psychology. This enables them to assess the subject’s body language and general presentation to further support comprehensive and holistic detection of deception or honesty. 

There is also the matter of individuality; all people are different and this means that there are differences in the way that people will respond when they are lying or being honest. People have different moods and different psychological and physical states which all contribute to how their body reacts.

A professional polygraph examiner will conduct an pre-interview with a subject to gain an understanding of who they are and what kind of psychological state they are in on the day of testing. People are often very nervous or apprehensive when attending a lie detector test; this does not necessarily imply they are lying, it can just indicate that the test means a lot to them and there is a lot riding on the result.

A professional polygraph examiner will undertake a pre-test or acquaintance set of questions with the subject; this allows them to determine a baseline for the subject’s physiological response on that specific day and to also understand what that particular individual does when they lie and how this is indicated within the data obtained. A home lie detector test will not accommodate individuality and will provide the same settings irrespective of how old, physically well or nervous or emotional a person is. It will not be able to take into account any medication or substance use, any changes due to pregnancy or the impact of any health conditions. 

Home lie detector tests conclusion

Essentially, a home lie detector test is too basic an instrument to provide an accurate result for lie detection. It is unable to accommodate individuality and only provides one element of lie detection when this is actually a very developed and evolved scientific and technical process. There are many different facets and requirements behind an accurate lie detector test result as discussed above and a home lie detector test will not be able to adhere to these. In conclusion, if you have a matter that needs addressing and you need to determine the truth behind an issue that will have serious consequences for your personal life or emotional wellbeing, its best to hire a professional. Keep the home lie detector test kits for the party games! 

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