Lesson in lie detectors sets myths straight

Morgan Day

Bill Evans, practicing attorney and polygraphist, hooks up a lie detector test to Johnathon Gibbs, sophomore justice studies major. SAM TWAREK | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

Correction: In this story, Jon Gibbs was incorrectly identified. The story originally stated his name as Johanthon Gibbs. The error occured in the editing process.

It’s easy to fool a lie detector. The rock-in-the-shoe trick, taking drugs to lower your heart rate, altering your breathing patterns – all discreet tactics that are guaranteed to work, right?

Wrong. They don’t work. And they are detectable.

“It’s one of the most archaic, one of the most basic attempts to fool a polygraph test,” said Bill Evans, about suspects inflicting pain upon themselves to get their minds off the test.

Evans, founder and president of PolyTech Associates, Inc. in Akron, spoke to two investigative process classes and one police role class yesterday in the Business Administration Building.

There are three types of polygraph tests: specific issue, internal affairs and pre-employment. Police and fire departments conduct pre-employment polygraph tests before hiring an individual, so many of the students will have to take the test to get their desired jobs. The test usually takes about two hours and is accompanied by a background check.

Jon Gibbs, sophomore justice studies major, was the only student put in the hot seat. He said although he volunteered, he was still nervous.

“It’s going to be part of the requirement when I try to get a job in the field, so I should try not to be nervous,” Gibbs said.

Evans said it’s normal to be nervous – even for those who have nothing to hide. He would prefer those taking the test to have some level of anxiety, because it means a person will perform at his or her best.

“Everything’s always worse than you think it is,” Evans said. “It’s the same way with the polygraph test.”

Evans said 85 to 90 percent of the time, if someone fails an investigative polygraph test, he or she will make a confession afterward. He said people become “psychologically boxed” into all the lies told to their family and friends, and they attempt to outwit the lie detector.

He said eye-witness testimony is about 70 percent accurate, while the polygraph is 95 to 98 percent accurate.

Contact safety reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].