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You’ve seen the TV shows. The defendant sits doe-eyed in a chair, wires taped to his head and arms. The Polygraph Examiner asks him a series of questions until one answer attracts everyone’s attention.
Although a little less dramatic than Hollywood, the job of a Polygraph Examiner in real life does use psychology, integrity, strong communication skills, and the ability to deal with confrontation to sniff out deception, lies, and inconsistencies. The polygraph machine records finite changes in bodily reactions, such as blood pressure or heart rate. Even though the client can’t feel these changes, the machine picks them up and records them.
High-action, criminal cases are just one of the settings in which polygraphs (lie detectors) are used. Commonly, either the accusers or the accused request them. For example, an employer may hire you — a Polygraph Examiner — to interview each employee when a theft is discovered in the company. Or, a woman accused of fraud may request your services to help prove her innocence.
Each interview takes about two to two and a half hours. You hook the monitors up and start with a few baseline questions. Then you begin asking a range of questions that revolve around the subject at hand.
As the test progresses, you clarify misleading comments, redirect the questions as needed, and constantly monitor the machinery. Once the exam is complete, you evaluate the results, looking for inconsistencies. Then you write up and submit a report. To do all of this, you need logical reasoning, the ability to control your emotions, and strong interpersonal skills.