Could you pass a lie detector test? By Vicki Vaughan Austin In December, 1973, a young Houston pharmacist decided he was sick and tired of the big city and that he wanted to move to Austin. First priority was a job, but he wasn’t too worried about that. In Houston, at the age of 25, he was making $1,000 a month as chief pharmacist at a large hospital. He quickly found an opening in Austin at a large chain drugstore, but he never got the job. He was one of the estimated 10 percent of people who do not show up for the essential supplemental interview for the company a lie detector test. THERE ARE now four Austin security companies that specialize in what is known as the industrial lie detector business. And business is booming. One company, in operation here three years, estimates that their corporation clientele has doubled in that time. Representative customers include Ward’s Cut-Rate Drugs, Skillern’s Drugs, Seven-Eleven Stores, Yaring’s and Glastron Boat Company. The lie detector, or polygraph, is actually a collection of three instruments, each measuring a different physiological change: breathing patterns, pulse rate and changes in blood pressure, and something called galvanic skin response, or the amount of electrical resistance in the skin, which changes under stress. The instruments are attached to three recording pens that in turn trace patterns across a rolling sheet of graph paper. In evaluating a polygraph test, specific reactions are not as important as change. In order to measure change, some sort of base, or norm, must be established. This is done by using a questioning technique perfected by John Reid and Cleve Backster, pioneers in the polygraph field. There are basically three types of questions asked: relevant, irrelevant, and control. The control question is one that the examiner hopes the subject will lie about. Since the control question will be the gauge by which the truthfulness of the other questions is determined, it is often phrased so as to create a confused, guilty response. One examiner said, “When I begin a question with the phrase ‘have you ever’ or I use the words ‘stolen anything,’ well, I just sit back and watch that needle jump. These control questions put people on the defensive.” Sample questions might be: “Is your first name James?” \(Irrelevantwill be ANAGERS and supervisors may be instrumental in deciding what types of questions are used in the polygraph examination, especially when they feel that there is a deliberate omission or ambiguity on an application. But the polygraph examiner ultimately decides what the questions will be. “You see, it depends upon what type of polygraphing we are doing as to what questions will be asked,” said Betty Craig, a young examiner for the M. R. Casey Company. “There are four types of examinations: pre-employment polygraphs, periodic checks \(usually run every six money or merchandise, and specific polygraphs, in the case of thefts, burglaries, rape, and so on,” she said. “We don’t ask embarrassing questions and employers don’t ask us to. That is, embarrassing sex-related questions. I usually make that very clear at the beginning of the interview. It’s something I don’t want to know . . . it’s none of my busines.” As to marijuana, Ms. Craig said, “Now some companies really don’t care they might have us ask the question, but they don’t care if the person uses it or not To other companies it is very important. Any use can rule a person out it just depends on the company.” “Of course, the questions asked in an examination are never rigid,” Ms. Craig said, “but they might go something like this: ‘Have you smoked marijuana in the last three months?’ Is the answer is no, then I don’t bother them any more in regard to this . . . I don’t care if they’ve smoked fifty pounds prior to the last three months. I feel like they have given it up for one reason or another. But if the answer to that question was yes,” she said, “then I ask ‘How much in the last three months?’ This is the important question to employers.” “And,” Craig said, “generally speaking, you do not want to hire a homosexual. They are often put in what we call an obligatory position that is, on the job they are subject to blackmail. A person might tell them, ‘If you don’t let me steal this, I’ll tell the boss you’re a homosexual.” Obviously, interpretation of a polygraph test lies with the examiner. “You might say that the examiner is the lie detector,” said Craig. “The skill of the examiner is the key to the test’s effectiveness.” Most lie detector operators will spend from 30 to 45 minutes with the person to be tested “to establish rapport.” The questions to be asked will be reviewed once before the person is hooked up to the polygraph machine. In this way, the questions don’t come as a surprise and give an unduly augmented response. To interpret the results of the lie detector test requires considerable skill. In Texas, one must hold a polygraph examiner’s license to administer the test and evaluate the results. To apply for the license one must be at least 21 years old and have a BA degree or five years investigative experience in the polygraph field. If admitted to the internship program, an applicant studies for 30 days and then takes a “mini-exam.” After passing this, the applicant will be qualified as an intern and may be allowed to give lie detector tests. At the end of the internship he must take the state board exam for polygraph operators and pass it to qualify for the license. RLYGRAPH examiners are a confident lot. They seem, assured of the machine’s infallibility and of their ability to evaluate the results. “The test is 96 to 98 percent accurate,” Craig said, “and we find that only 2 percent of those tested are Congenital liars able to fool the machine and the other results are inconclusive. These statistics are based upon random, in-depth, personal surveys done on the January 17, 19 75 17 anything of value from an employer?” , “Have you at any time in the last three months Wait a minute . . . “Have you at any time in the last three months smoked marijuana?” That’s a relevant question? Do companies care about that? They do indeed. Drug usage is important in the screening of applicants, especially usage of hard drugs. Other questions given by the polygraph examiner may emphasize theft from former employers. Gilbert Hernandez, -manager of a Ward’s drugstore, asked if an applicant would not be considered if he admitted smoking pot. “Oh, no,” he said. “We know this kind of thing goes on. That might be OK. If they do something like smoke pot it doesn’t rule them out . . . But you know, if it’s excessive if they’re addicted to the stuff well, they’d probably be eliminated right there.” Hernandez, went on to -describe one particular marijuana user: “Fot instance:. we had this one guy come in for ‘ari interview high on the stuff, with stains all over his fingers. And his hands shook . . Really, I don’t like it [marijuana]. I know I wouldn’t want to work right alongside a . pothead . . . I don’t think I could hire anyone like that;” Hernandez said quietly, shaking his head.
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