Polygraphs

.. e book A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector, by professor David Lykken, show the effectiveness and efficiency of the polygraph in solving some problems for employers. Employers are particularly concerned about theft, and some believe the lie detector is the answer. In a study by the U.S. Department of Justice of employees in electronics factories, hospitals, and retail stores, 30% said they stole from the company. Generally, losses due o theft are passed on in higher prices to customers. Some business groups say employee theft raises the price of consumer goods by as much as 15%.

One-third of all business failures are caused by employee theft. The APA argues, The best way to stop employee theft is simply not hire those employees inclined to steal. The best way is also impossible. What the employer must do is set up a screening process that will weed out the obvious security risks. Many experts believe that personnel screening is the most vital safeguard against internal theft. (APA, pg.21) After passing polygraph screens as applicants, employees can then be polygraphed periodically -say, one every six months- or at random. If a theft occurs nonetheless, the polygraph is a useful tool. not only can it be helpful in tracking down the culprit, it can clear an innocent employee who was incorrectly suspected.

The APA says that the majority of companies that adopt the lie detector cut internal theft by over 10%. Further, they get a better idea of whether or not an applicant is honest than they would from traditional means, such as checking references. Polygraph supporters claim some great success stories: the case of Willoughby Peerless, a large East Coast camera store chain, for instance. Its Philadelphia store, suffering from inventory losses of about 14%, adopted the polygraph. The losses then decreased to 1%.

And a representative of the National Association of Convenience Stores testified at a congressional hearing that inventory theft from its 525 member companies could be reduced by half with the help of the lie detector. The APA claims an accuracy rate for polygraphs of between 85 and 90 percent. (Jussim, pg.71) Though the procedure is not infallible, its proponents say it is the most accurate way to get at the truth. Far more accurate than relying on someones unsupported subjective judgment. True, a victim of an inaccurate test may not be hired for a job, but the companies basing their decisions solely on interviews and references make incorrect hiring decisions every day. Polygrapher John Reid boasted, We get better results than a priest does. The APA is opposed to firing an employee or charging a suspect with a crime solely on the basis of lie detector results.

It says that most employers wont dismiss workers without some additional evidence. The Case Against The Polygraph Critics of polygraph examinations say that even if they do serve to deter crime, their cost in individual rights outweighs any benefits. They believe lie-detector use to be unethical and sometimes illegal, and they are fighting it in the courts, in legislatures, and in union halls. These are some of their arguments: Polygraph tests invade privacy. Because examiners often ask personal questions not relating specifically to the investigation at hand. Polygraphs are unfair. Because the utility of the machines is getting people to admit wrongdoing.

But if they dont elicit a confession, the tests may be useless or produce false positives, mislabeling truthful people as liars. Accuracy problems may be especially acute in private-sector screening, according to an aide to Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who has sponsored antipolygraph legislation. He said that often polygraphers will only spend fifteen minutes on these tests- as opposed to the four hours they may spend in testing for national security clearance- and that examinations are biased against the innocent. Nuns would fail polygraph tests, and convicts would pass them. Many polygraph operators are incompetent. A lawyer for an employee who had been fired because of a lie detector said, In what is a very typical pattern, the polygrapher prove to be a retired police employee, and my cross examination of him proved that he knew very little about the supposed science of polygraphy and could no more tell you who was telling the truth than an Ouija board. Polygraphs do no enhance national security. Because spies can be trained to beat the tests. And by going after government employees who have leaked information to the press, polygraphers support censorship. Polygraphs are an instrument of terror.

Because they are a modern version of interrogation under torture, with examiners using pressure tactics and intimidation to scare people into confessing. They create fear wherever they are used. Conclusion The battle over polygraphs finds civil libertarians and labor unions in a face-off with public and private employers. With the passage of an antipolygraph bill by the House of Representatives in 1986, the critics seem to be winning. This was the closest that Congress had ever come to outlawing polygraphs in the private sector.

The fifth amendment of the constitution says that, No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. This is mainly the reason a polygraph examination is not admissible evidence in court. This is another complicated aspect of the subject, the entire truth is never told.

Many details, such as exactly how the lie detector works scientifically and the entire involving court discussions and decisions were left out of this report for a reason. They are monotonous and not needed to form your own opinion. I do hope the information provided was enough for you to make your own judgments and now Id like to share mine. Personally, I support lie detectors. The polygraph is an extremely useful tool but I agree it should not be overused. I support it in government and higher ranking positions but not in every day employee use.

In reality, I know that such a device should not be needed because we should be able to trust each other whether or not we personally know each other. Be that as it may, it sounds nice, but isnt true in this world. In this day and age, a lot of people cannot be trusted, which is too bad. This is why I support the polygraph even though I know it would not be needed in an utopia, but then again, what would be? Bibliography 1. David Thoreson Lykken, A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the lie detector, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981.

2. Robert Ellis Smith, Just Published, Privacy Journal, January 1987. 3. Norman Ansley and Stanley Abrams, The Polygraph Profession, Linthicum Heights, Md.: American Polygraph Association, 1980. 4.

APA, Polygraph: Issues and Answers, APA pamphlet, (undated) 5. Francis J. Flaherty, Truth Technology, Progressive, June 1982, pp. 30-35 6. Edward Tivnan, Truth and Consequences, New York, March 12, 1984, pp. 49-52 7.

Daniel Jussim, Drug Tests and Polygraphs, Julian Messner: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1987. 8. Jean Cobb, To Tell the Truth, Common Cause Magazine, September 1985, pp.33-37 9. Dorothy J. Samuels, What If the Lie Detector Lies? Nation, December 3, 1983, pp. 567-68 10.

Bureau of National Affairs, Polygraphs and Employment, Washington, D.C.: BNA, 1985 Abstract Humans have always wanted to know when a person is lying and when they are telling the truth. Polygraphs only detect physiological responses, but thats all it needs to determine your guilt. When taking the test, subjects are hooked up to a briefcase-sized machine by several attachments. On tube goes around the chest to measure respiration, a cuff squeezes one bicep to check blood pressure, and electrodes are attached to two fingertips to determine the skins resistance to electrical. The last attachment is listed relates to how much the person is sweating. The examiner then quizzes the subject, first with irrelevant questions not specifically relating to the subject.

These may last up to 4 hours. With these answers recorded on what is now a computer screen, the examiner knows what to look for. When it comes time to ask relevant questions, it takes only fifteen minutes. This is one of many reasons critics of the polygraph give when asked to support their views. There are many other reasons too.

But, there are also numerous reasons on why the polygraph should be supported. One very important supportive reason is screening applicants to know if they will be or have been trustworthy. This can be used when a crime or mishap has occurred in a store. The manager hires a polygrapher and examines every worker. The employer must know he can trust the employee with the information.

With a nearly 90% success rate, the extra trouble is well worth it. I support the polygraph, but know in reality we shouldnt need one at all.