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FAQs, Polygraph, Lie Detector

This page of our website answers some of the most frequently asked questions concerning the polygraph, also known as the lie detector, its invention, application, accuracy, manufacturers, polygraph schools and examiners. Please continue submitting your questions; we will gladly include them on this page, along with our answers.

What is the polygraph?
The polygraph (lie detector) is a scientific instrument capable of simultaneously recording changes in several physiological variables such as blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration, electrodermal activity, and others, while the subject is asked a series of questions pertaining to a specific issue under investigation. The charts (polygrams) generated during the polygraph examination are interpreted by a polygraph examiner. The literal meaning of the word "polygraph" is "many writings".

Who is the inventor of the polygraph?
The polygraph was invented in 1921 by John Augustus Larson (1892-1965) a medical student at the University of California and a police officer of the Berkeley Police Department (Berkeley, California USA). Dr. Larson, born in Shelbourne, Nova Scotia, Canada, was the first to simultaneously record more than one physiological parameter with the purpose of detecting deception. Dr. Larson developed and utilized the continuous method of concurrently registering changes in pulse rate, blood pressure, and respiration. In conjunction with his polygraph, Dr. Larson used a test/a scientific procedure originated by Dr. William Moulton Marston (1893-1947) in the Harvard Psychological Laboratory in 1915 and applied by him to various fields of investigation during World War I. Dr. Larson modified Dr. Marston's procedure and applied it to the police procedure at the Berkeley Police Department beginning in 1921.

How significant is the invention of the polygraph (lie detector)?
The polygraph is considered officially one of the greatest inventions of all time. For example, the polygraph (lie detector), invented by John A. Larson of the U.S. in 1921, is included in the Encyclopaedia Britannica Almanac 2003's list of 325 greatest inventions.

What company is the leader in the manufacture of polygraphs?
Lafayette Instrument Company (LIC), located in Lafayette, Indiana, USA, is the unconditional global leader in the manufacture and sale of polygraphs. Lafayette Instrument Company, founded in 1947 by Max Wastl (1915-1990), has been manufacturing polygraphs since the 1950's. Under the stewardship of the company's current owners Christopher L. Fausett, Jennifer D. Rider, and Terrance G. Echard, and past-president Roger B. McClellan, LIC has achieved a global polygraph market share of approximately 90 percent.

Who uses polygraphs?
Polygraph examinations are conducted by polygraph examiners in the private, law enforcement and government sectors in approximately 90 countries. The polygraph (lie detector) is most actively used in the United States of America, Mexico, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, South Africa, Colombia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, India, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Lithuania, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, El Salvador, Panama, and Guatemala, to name a few. The USA leads the list with millions of polygraph examinations administered on an annual basis. The list of well known polygraph users in the USA includes: Department of Defense and its many investigative agencies of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, National Security Agency (NSA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), United States Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Energy, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and numerous other intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies. The polygraph is also used by state and local law enforcement agencies, U.S. and district attorney offices, public defenders, lawyers, parole and probation departments, public and private companies.

How big is Ukraine's polygraph market?
Ukraine has one of the largest polygraph markets in the world. This young and dynamic polygraph market is characterized by significant growth potential. In recent years, for example, Ukraine has led European nations in the purchase of Lafayette Instrument Company polygraphs.

How accurate is the polygraph?
Recent research reveals that the accuracy of the new computerized polygraph system is close to 100 percent. In the past 75 years, over 250 studies have been conducted on the validity, accuracy and reliability of polygraph testing (American Polygraph Association 1996 Polygraph Issues & Answers). Based on twelve separate studies involving 2174 real cases since 1980, evidence suggests that qualified field polygraph examiners are 98 percent accurate in their overall decisions (Norman Ansley, "The validity and reliability of polygraph decisions in real cases", Polygraph, v.19, 1990). Research clearly indicates that when administered by a competent polygraph examiner, the polygraph test is the most accurate means available to determine truth and deception.

Is there a polygraph association in Ukraine?
Yes, there exists the International League of Polygraph Examiners (ILPE) in Ukraine – voluntary professional polygraph associations composed of qualified polygraph examiners in the private, law enforcement and government sectors from around the world, determined to protect the public by verifying the truth.

What polygraphs are approved by the ILPE?
Approved ILPE polygraph instrumentation includes polygraphs and polygraph accessories manufactured by Lafayette Instrument Company. The polygraph exists to protect the public by verifying the truth and determining deception. It is ILPE's concrete position that polygraph examiners can succeed in protecting the public by utilizing only the most advanced polygraph instrumentation, as in our profession there is no margin for error. The ever-objective market forces indicate that Lafayette Instrument Company manufactures precisely the superior polygraph instrumentation the polygraph market values the most.

What polygraph schools are approved by the ILPE?
The list of ILPE approved polygraph schools includes all twenty-eight (28) APA accredited schools and Chicago Polygraph Institute (CPI) – an ILPE accredited polygraph school from Chicago, USA, represented in Europe by ARGO-A, located in Kiev, Ukraine.

How long does a polygraph examination take?
Depending on the complexity of the case and the number of issues being tested a polygraph examination generally takes 2-3 hours.

What does a typical polygraph examination entail?
A professional polygraph examination consists of three phases: the pretest interview, the collection of charts, and the analysis of the polygraph charts. The average polygraph test will generally last 2-3 hours from beginning to end. The longest phase of the polygraph examination will be the pretest interview, which normally lasts 45-90 minutes. In the pretest interview phase, the polygraph examiner will complete the required paperwork and discuss the test questions so that the examinee fully understands each question in advance of taking the polygraph examination. The examiner will also explain the polygraph testing process and answer any questions or concerns. The collection-of-charts phase takes place in a quiet room with no one but the polygraph examiner and examinee present to prevent distracting the examinee. The polygraph examiner will attach sensors to the subject and ask "yes" or "no" questions that have previously been discussed. Data is collected from the sensors in the form of polygraph charts. In the last phase, the examiner will analyze the charts and render an opinion as to the truthfulness of the person taking the test.

Do nerves affect the results of a polygraph test?
No. Nervousness does not interfere with the polygraph test. It is expected that every individual undergoing a polygraph examination will be nervous whether he/she intends to answer questions truthfully or not. Typically, an examinee remains nervous throughout the entire testing process not during one individual question. A polygraph examiner will look for action-specific responses over and above the examinee's heightened level of nervousness or anxiety. If nerves affected the result of a polygraph test, then no one would ever pass a polygraph test.

How do I know if a polygraph examiner is qualified?
The easiest way to make sure you are being tested by a qualified polygraph examiner is to ask if he or she is a member of the International League of Polygraph Examiners (ILPE) and/or the American Polygraph Association (APA). We recommend that you contact the ILPE or the APA to confirm your polygraph examiner’s membership.

What should I look for when seeking a polygraph examiner?
It is important you choose a polygraph examiner who has been professionally trained, accredited, and certified. Every qualified examiner must reach certain competencies before certification(s) can be awarded. It is important to ensure that the polygraph examiner has attended an ILPE or an APA accredited polygraph school as deemed by the ILPE and the APA. Beware of unethical individuals who represent themselves as qualified polygraph examiners when, in fact, they do not have formal training or qualifications. A charlatan will often charge you less for his/her services; however, you should always be skeptical of his/her polygraph examination results.

Can I beat the polygraph?
No, you cannot. If you know you are lying, the polygraph will detect the lie. Any qualified polygraph examiner, who graduated from an ILPE and/or an APA accredited polygraph school, will certainly detect deception. Furthermore, the Lafayette Instrument Company computerized polygraph approved by the ILPE has a phenomenal accuracy rate of nearly 100 percent and is used in conjunction with highly effective polygraph accessories allowing a polygraph examiner to detect countermeasures an examinee may resort to in an attempt to influence the outcome of the polygraph examination.

Who is the most prominent polygraph examiner of all time?
Leonarde Keeler (1903-1949), born in North Berkeley, California USA, is the most prominent polygraph examiner of all time. Having conducted over 30,000 polygraph examinations, Leonarde Keeler is one of the world's foremost scientific criminologists, whose contribution to the stature of the field of lie detection is merely immeasurable and invaluable. In 1925, Leonarde Keeler (a Stanford University psychology major working at the Berkeley Police Department), developed two significant improvements to Larson's polygraph: a metal bellows (tambour) to better record changes in blood pressure, pulse and respiration patterns, and a kymograph, which allowed chart paper to be pulled under the recording pens at a constant speed. In 1936, Keeler added a third physiological component to his polygraph – the Psychogalvanometer – a device for measuring changes in a person's skin resistance. This version of Keeler's polygraph was the prototype of the modern polygraph, and Keeler himself is therefore considered the "father of modern polygraph". In addition to improving the polygraph, Keeler is also credited with numerous contributions to polygraph examination technique. Leonarde Keeler invented the famous Keeler Polygraph, for which he received a patent in 1931. It became the most widely used polygraph in the world for the next three decades. In 1948 Leonarde Keeler founded the Keeler Polygraph Institute, located on Ohio Street in Chicago – the first polygraph school in the world. The institute trained many prominent people in the field of polygraphy. Keeler appeared in the 1948 movie "Call Northside 777", starring James (Jimmy) Stewart and Richard Conte. Critics noted that the screen rookie Keeler was superb in his role appearing as himself, polygraph examiner. Leonarde Keeler died at the age of 45 following a massive stroke. The urn containing Keeler's ashes is at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, California, USA, bearing the simple inscription: "Ye shall know the truth".

Are there any polygraph libraries in the world?
There are several polygraph libraries in the world, most of them being in the United States of America. Each APA accredited polygraph school, for example, is required to have a polygraph library. The U.S. Department of Defense Polygraph Institute has the largest polygraph library in the world consisting of over 7000 titles of books and research papers. ARGO-A possesses the largest polygraph library in Europe. The ARGO-A library, established in 1997, has approximately one thousand (1000) titles of books, newspapers, magazines, brochures, catalogs, periodicals, scientific papers, statistical data, Internet publications, and video materials predominantly in the English, Ukrainian, and Russian languages. This is impressive considering the confidential nature of the lie detection field and a limited choice of polygraph literature around the world.

Is there a polygraph (lie detector) museum in the world?
ARGO-A (Kiev, Ukraine) has the best collection of ink, thermal, and computerized polygraphs and lie detectors of different generations and brands in the world. The collection includes historic polygraphs manufactured by Lafayette Instrument Company, Stoelting, Associated Research, B & W Associates, Thompson-Metrigraph Instrument Company and others.

Is there a polygraph (lie detector) photo gallery in the world?
ARGO-A owns the largest polygraph photo gallery in the world, consisting of images of polygraphs, polygraph examiners, scientists, businessmen, and law enforcement personnel making significant contributions in the development of the instrumental psychophysiological deception detection. Among these individuals are: John Larson, William Marston, August Vollmer, Leonarde Keeler, John Reid, Fred Inbau, Angelo Mosso, Marie Gabriel Romain Vigouroux, Ivan Tarkhanov, Alexander Luria, Boris Sidis, Cesare Lombroso, Vittorio Benussi, Cleve Backster, Max Wastl and others. The ARGO-A polygraph photo gallery also includes posters of famous Hollywood films and original photos of Hollywood actors, “undergoing polygraph examination” in movies, in which the lie detector (polygraph) was used. In addition, the ARGO-A polygraph photo gallery includes originals and copies of images of well-known criminals and politicians captured by photographers working for major magazines and newspapers during high profile polygraph tests.

Are polygraph examination results admissible in court?
Polygraph examination results are admissible in court in some countries, for example, in Japan, India, and USA. In the United States of America, most states permit polygraph examination results to be used as evidence where parties have agreed to their admissibility before the examination is given, under the terms of a stipulation.

What polygraph examiner is the most frequently quoted by the media worldwide?
The Director of ARGO-A (Kiev, Ukraine), Dr. Andriy Volyk, is one of the most experienced and well-known polygraph examiners in Europe, and is the most frequently mentioned and quoted polygraph examiner by the media worldwide. Dr. Andriy Volyk has administered thousands of polygraph examinations for law enforcement agencies, private companies, and private citizens from various countries. Dr. Andriy Volyk has also conducted polygraph exams for TV shows and films on numerous politicians, stars, and celebrities. Millions of radio listeners have heard Dr. Volyk’s voice worldwide. His sagacious comments on the subject of the polygraph (lie detection) have been read by tens of millions of readers on the pages of numerous magazines, newspapers, and Internet publications. Furthermore, Dr. Volyk is President of the International League of Polygraph Examiners (ILPE), and an Associate Member of the American Polygraph Association (APA).