How accurate was the lie detector test on Jeremy Kyle?

lie detector results

The Jeremy Kyle Show was axed in 2019 following the very sad and tragic passing of a guest to the show who had taken and been advised that he had failed, a lie detector test around matters of infidelity in a relationship.

The gentleman in question had attended another lie detector test with a different polygraph examiner following sitting the test with the show and had been found to be telling the truth in this second test.

The show claimed their polygraph examinations to be around 90% accurate which is a very high claim for any lie detector testing and not supported by research. During an investigation into the show following its termination, the “Director of Aftercare” for the production advised that he was “naïve” regarding the exact figures for accuracy behind lie detection.

Academics advised the inquiry that lie detector testing is estimated to be around 66% accurate and this is a more realistic figure. 

The inquiry also found that potential guests to the show were “lured” into attending through the offer of free lie detector tests to settle disputes in their relationships, families and friendships. 

Whilst the exact figure for accuracy of lie detector testing cannot be stated, the American Polygraph Association, and leading body on polygraph examination globally, claims that lie detector testing is 87.5% accurate. 

The important idea to hold onto is that lie detector testing is not, and never can be 100% accurate. Any person making claims of accuracy within lie detector testing that is 100% or even in the 90% range is not doing so with any backing from research or verified studies. 

Lie detector testing is about human beings; people are complex and vary from individual to individual, and lying is an abstract concept and not a concrete item that can be empirically observed and measured.

Lie detector testing relies on the secondary impacts of lying within a person and records responses to the presence of feelings of threat or fear; heart rate, blood flow, temperature, sweating to the hands, respiration and movement. Whilst experimentation, studies, research and development over decades has sought to increase the accuracy of lie detector testing, it is still not 100% accurate and this must be kept in mind when polygraph examination findings are shared. 

Also, the accuracy of lie detector testing is not a set figure that can be stated for anyone using a polygraph machine; lie detector testing is far more complex than just the input of data and the output of a result.

There is a vital human element within the process and many factors and variables that can impact on accuracy within lie detector testing. Much of the accuracy probability is based on the examiner themselves and details of the testing process that they are responsible for; the writing and formulation of test questions, the order of questions within the test set, the observations made by the examiner of the person sitting the test, the robust adherence to polygraph examination models and principles, the placing of sensors and upkeep of equipment, the creating of a physical and psychological environment conducive to producing valid and reliable data and the analysis and interpretation of data obtained.

If the polygraph examiner is not knowledgeable and diligent within all these areas the test will not produce accurate results no matter how good or expensive the instrumentation used is. There is also a reliance on the cooperation and goodwill of the subject sitting the test; if they attempt to use countermeasures to evade detection of their deception such as undeclared substance use or physical or cognitive techniques to manipulate the data obtained, this can impact on the test and likely provide inconclusive results.

There are considerable amounts of influences, variables and factors that can impact on the accuracy of a lie detector test and to provide one static figure of accuracy is an unrealistic endeavour.

Whilst there is confusion and ambiguity around exactly how accurate the lie detector tests performed on the Jeremy Kyle Show, and it is highly unlikely that the full truth around this will ever be determined or come to light, the real issue with the show was the manner in which it handled and reacted to lie detector testing and results; it is not known how guests were prepared for the lie detector test or how they were treated backstage or what after care they actually received.

It is presumed, for the sake of giving the benefit of doubt, that guests were handled with kindness and compassion, and supported following the receiving of lie detector test results when the cameras were not running. 

However, on stage was a different matter; Mr Kyle responded to persons “failing” the lie detector test with anger, insults, judgement, condemnation and verbal abuse and aggression.

He attempted to humiliate them and accused them relentlessly of being “liars” and never once spoke about the possibility of the test having been wrong or inaccurate. Once you were indicated to have been deceptive on a Jeremy Kyle lie detector test you were vilified; the audience were encouraged to boo and heckle you and large security guards would close in as if to suggest that if you were capable of lying, you were probably capable of criminal damage or violence.

This is an horrendous way to treat any human being and should never have been allowed. It most certainly should not have been allowed when a person “may” have lied, and the correct and respectful consideration of the test not being 100% accurate should have been verbalised and shared. 

Human beings lie. We all lie. It’s an evolved behaviour to support survival. Sometimes we tell huge lies and sometimes we tell little “white” lies but it would be a false claim if anyone said they have never once lied in their life. Even Mr Kyle himself will have told many lies in his life (rather large ones according to the tabloids!).

Human beings also all make mistakes; we are complex and emotional creatures and we give in to temptation, we get confused and distracted in matters of the heart, we become selfish in our own pursuits of gain or happiness and we make poor or wrong decisions. This does not make any of us “bad people” or people deserving of name calling, humiliation or verbal aggression. 

None of us can walk in another person’s shoes and none of us can truly understand their background and life experiences and what was going on for them at the time they committed an indiscretion or made a mistake or how they were feeling or what they were thinking. Whilst there are times that others lie about a situation in their own lives and whilst it can be perceived as the right of other’s impacted by this lie to know the truth, lie detector testing should not be employed as a means to label or condemn a person. 

Lie detector testing should be undertaken by a professional who is compassionate, respectful and non-judgemental. No one should be made to feel that they are a bad person just because they have made a mistake or told a lie, as this would make every person on this earth a bad person. It is up to you and your relationships how you deal with the results obtained within lie detector testing and what actions you need to take next, but it is not up to any outsider or professional to criticise you or put you down.

If you feel that your polygraph examiner is in any way judgemental of you or the information you have shared, or if they lack compassion and understanding around the stresses and anxieties that are provoked by the undertaking of a lie detector test, its time to find another examiner! And after the test, don’t beat yourself up or allow others to do so; we are all just human beings trying to do our best and sometimes we all f*** up! It’s just how we are.

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