Creating Rapport and Trust in Lie Detection / Polygraph Tests
Creating Rapport and Trust in Lie Detection / Polygraph Tests
The physiological responses detected by the polygraph are a reflection of the examinees’ emotions concerning the questions as well as their feelings toward the test situation and its surroundings. Regardless of innocence or guilt, examinees share a wide range of negative feelings such as: humiliation (“It’s a test for criminals”), insult (“After so many years they still doubt my honesty?”), resentment (“A machine will determine my integrity”), shame (“They all believe that I did it”), loss of control (“It’s not in my hands but in the hands of the machine), invasion (“You are penetrating my soul”), fear of consequences (“My future is determined by a machine”), fear of unknown (“It’s my first time and it seems like an electrical chair”). In addition to these negative feelings, examinees experience test anxiety where the anxiousness about doing well becomes self-consciousness and self-doubt and causes autonomic nervous system changes (physical, emotional, behavioural and cognitive). The primary “threat” in this situation is the possibility of failure, which fuels the anxiety. Test anxiety can create a vicious circle: the more the person focuses on the bad outcome, the stronger the feeling of anxiety becomes, up to the point of failing the test.
Truthful examinees experience an additional concern that the inaccuracy of the polygraph will work against them to the point of failing the test (“Fear of Error”). Although there is no supporting research, in theory the fear of error can push a truthful examinee to the edge of failure. False positives and inconclusive statistics may give us some clues, yet it is clear that the fear of error cannot be blamed for all the false positives outcomes. Regardless of the extent, there is no doubt that the fear of error has a damaging effect on polygraph charts’ clarity due to the examinees’ nervousness and anxiousness that produce erratic and “noisy” charts.
Rapport and Trust
While truthful examinees fear that the inaccuracy of the polygraph will work against them, deceptive examinees hope that it will work for them. That is why examiners should convince the examinees of the: “… technique’s accuracy and… the examiner’s competence,” by a “… thorough description of the test procedure, an explanation of the instrumentation, and an image created by the examiner of competence, objectivity, and trustworthiness.” Achieving these goals reduces truthful examinees’ anxiety and increases deceptive examinees’ fear of detection, which subsequently will result in clear and significant charts. In order to accomplish these objectives the examiner should establish rapport and trust with the examinees.
While we all know how it feels, creating rapport and trust are a bit elusive and vague. Rapport can be defined as a feeling of connection, trust or simply a feeling that you are being understood. In order to achieve it we should tell examinees something of ourselves, talk “eye level” while using their level of language and “wrap” it all in the proper examination room setting. In addition to being genuine, frank, and empathetic, there are additional measures that the examiner should take in order to fully achieve rapport and trust:
- The examinee should be advised about the test (place, time, issues, and examiner) at least a day prior to the test in order to absorb, consult and “digest” the idea.
- The examinee shouldn’t be investigated on the same day as the polygraph examination.
- Have in the waiting area a short yet detailed explanatory leaflet containing information such as: How does the polygraph works, does the test has an effect on the examinee’s health, can unhealthy people take the test, does anxiousness and nervousness affect the results, the test procedure, accuracy of the polygraph, about the examiner and the organization and most important, the legal status and a statement that the test is totally voluntary. Emphasize the fact that the examiner and not the instrument determines the outcome of the test.
- Have your organization’s as well as the APA’s code of ethics framed and placed in a noticeable spot in the waiting area.
- The examination room should be small (9×9), quiet, air conditioned, sparsely furnished with no distractions such as: telephone, pictures, examinee’s seat facing an open window and alike.
- Examiner should not be overly or poorly dressed (adjust yourself to the examinee’s attire).
- Once you have introduced yourself, ask the examinee ifs/he is as nervous and anxious, as you were when you first took the test. Discuss it and assure the examinee that it will not have any influence on the outcome.
- Ask the examinee ifs/he has read the information leaflet and ifs/he has any questions and/or needs extra clarifications. The mere surfacing and discussion of the examinee’s concern and anxiousness act as a tranquilizer and reduces the examinee’s tension.
- Clarify that the test is voluntary and ifs/he wishes she/he can walk away whenever s/he feels. This statement conveys the examiner’s objectivity (in over thousands of examinations only two have walked out on me after this statement).
- Between question phrasing and signing the consent form, reinforce the voluntary statement.
- Administer an acquaintance test to demonstrate the test procedure as well as demonstrate her/his body “transparency.” It will reassure the truthful and stimulate the deceptive examinee.
- Ask the examinee between charts how’s/he feels and ifs/he wishes to continue.
A word of caution: Do not get overly friendly to avoid the “friendly examiner” effect where the examinee may lose the fear of detection and consequences, which may reduce her/his responses.
A major contributor to a successful polygraph test is the quality of the interpersonal communication between the examinee and the examiner. Interpersonal communication is an exchange of messages between two individuals which include: talking, listening, persuading, nonverbal communication, and more. In spite of Wiio’s claim that: “If communication can fail, it will” or “There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message,” my experience taught me that a properly constructed pretest based on the above mentioned principles will result in a productive interpersonal communication which is based on rapport and trust.
1 Reid J.E., Inbau F.E (1977). Truth and Deception, The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore, pp.216 – 217.
2 Abram s , S., A, (1977). PolygraphHandbookforAttomeys, Lexington Books, Lexington, MA. p. 61.
3 Osmo Wiio, (1978). Wiio’s Laws–and Some Others, Welin-Goos, Espoo, Finland.