Microsoft word - polygraph facts and fiction

Facts Not In Evidence: How Polygraph Examinations Really Work Ken Blackstone, Forensic Polygraph Examiner, President – Blackstone Polygraph, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA, [email protected] Abstract
Today’s legal and forensic professionals will agree that the court’s ruling on Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923) served as a virtual bar to the admissibility of polygraph results as evidence. What they may not know is that Dr. William Marston did not use a polygraph instrument when he tested James Frye. Nonetheless, the polygraph was then disenfranchised, put into a dark room, and today, almost 90 years later, the Court remains impervious and professionals are ill-informed. Designed for those who prefer fact-based opinions over myth, this paper will 1) proffer information regarding the polygraph procedure; especially psychology, physiology, and deception criteria and analysis and 2) address various prominent and sometimes persuasive myths about the polygraph. The purpose of this paper is not to challenge anyone’s existing opinion about the polygraph, but to circulate facts that can be remembered when future opinions are formed. Keywords: polygraph, psychology, physiology, deception criteria, test data analysis
Today, it is agreed that the polygraph is 90% psychology (Matte) and that the psychological factors at play during deception are related to emotion, cognitive activity and/or behavioral conditioning (Barland, 2010, Blackstone 2008). At least sixteen psychological theories (see Table 1) directly apply to deception (Blackstone 2011) and to predict how many of these factors will apply to a certain individual at a certain time is a feat beyond science. To identify which of those factors caused a certain response is also impossible, but it is “not, however, imperative that we define the cause to prove that there is an effect. It is quite possible, and acceptable, to have a test validated as accurate for its specified purpose without having a complete theoretical understanding of the underlying theoretical constructs” (construct validity, Cook and Campbell, 1979). When considering underlying cause of arousal during polygraph testing, it is useful to think of a “continuum of causes, rather than one simple explanation” (Handler and Honts, 2007). Today, the term differential salience “provides a defensible and comprehendible theoretical framework through which a variety of explanations can be explained.” Using salience we can “account for physiological responses that occur for a variety of reasons” (Senter, 2010). Cognitive/intellectual awareness (cognitive) Classical Conditioning {crime} (behavioral) Classical Conditioning {punishment} (behavioral) The above table was taken from Chapter 3: How Polygraph Examinations Work – Methodology of the book Polygraph, Sex Offenders, and the Court (Blackstone, 2011), PHYSIOLOGY
One of the most misleading myths related to the polygraph procedure is the term lie detector and the subsequent assumption that there is a physiological response that is unique to lying. Sorry – there is no Pinocchio response. Analog or digital, the polygraph instrument does not detect lies; it records respiration, electrodermal activity, and cardiovascular activity and that recording translates into a monitor of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Autonomic Nervous System.
Sometimes referred to as the visceral nervous system, the ANS is the part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as a control system, maintaining homeostasis in the body. These controlling activities (allostasis) are generally automatic, performed without conscious effort or sensation. The term allostasis is derived from the Greek allo meaning “change” and stasis meaning “stable.” Homeostasis comes from the Greek homeo (same) and stasis (stable) thus meaning “remaining stable by staying the same.” (Handler, 2008) Allostasis, which is the process of achieving stability, describes the bodily changes that occur behaviorally and physiologically to assist in remaining stable. The ANS regulates the body’s visceral organs: heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, and salivation, and perspiration, diameter of the pupils, urination and sexual arousal. Whereas most of the actions of the ANS are completely involuntary, some, such as breathing, work both involuntarily and in tandem with the conscious mind. Its main components are its sensory system, motor system [comprised of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the enteric nervous system]. The enteric nervous system controls the gastro-intestinal system and communicates with the central nervous system through the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches. The parasympathetic and sympathetic branches, while complementary, typically function in opposition to each other. The PNS is usually dominant and it serves as a means of conserving energy. The SNS is always active at a basal level (sympathetic tone) and becomes more active, or dominant, in stressful circumstances requiring quick responses, also known as emergency situations. Emergency Situations.
Emergency situations will be either physical or psychological (cognitive, emotional, or behavioral). In an emergency situation a person’s sympathetic branch is aroused automatically (sympathetic arousal) and then to regain homeostasis the parasympathetic branch counterbalances this arousal (allostasis). For a loose analogy, one may think of the sympathetic branch as the accelerator and the parasympathetic branch as the brake. At times when the initial arousal is extreme, the compensation (aka overcompensation) and this accounts for what appear to be contradictory or opposite manifestations (high blood pressure and then fainting due to low blood pressure). DECEPTION CRITERIA
The notion that bodily changes are indicative of deception has been around for thousands of years and one of the more impressive pre-scientific observations on the detection of deception and deception criteria was made in the third century BC by Erasistratus (304 BC- 250 BC), the grandson of Aristotle. A royal physician in Syria, Erasistratus is known as the first cardiac arrhythmologist to use the tumultuous rhythm of the heart to conclude that Antiochus, crown prince of the Seleucid court in Syria, was hiding his love for his beautiful stepmother Stratunice. Their marriage and child appear to confirm these early findings (Trovillo, 1939). The first modern paper on deception criteria “Deception Test Criteria” was written in 1942 by Paul Trovillo, then a forensic psychologist at the Chicago Police Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory. Trovillo then identified a total of 23 physiological responses as indicative of deception. For the cardiograph he listed 11 responses, for the respiration tracing he listed six responses, and for the electrodermal (GSR) he listed six. He also noted what he called ambiguities in all three channels. (Ansley, 2008) Today, based on extensive research, there are 10 tracing features (see Table 2) or “response patterns” which are considered as reliable for manual scoring. (The number 11 is often used to separate two forms of suppression in respiration.) Table 2
response pattern
Barland & Raskin (1975), Harris, Horner & McQuarrie (2000), Kircher & Raskin (1988), Podlesny & Truslow (1993) Harris, Horner & McQuarrie (2000), Kircher & Raskin (1988) Suppression(primary) Barland & Raskin (1975), Cutrow, Parks, Lucas & Thomas (1972), Harris, Horner & McQuarrie (2000), Nakayama (1984), Patrick & Iaconno (1991), Wakamatsu & Yoshizumi (1968) Harris, Horner & McQuarrie (2000), Kircher & Raskin (1988) Benussi (1914), Burtt (1921a), Burtt (1921b), Landis & Gullette (1925 Barland & Raskin (1975), Cutrow, Parks, Lucas & Thomas (1972), Patrick & Iaconno GSR – Electro-dermal Amplitude (primary) Harris, Horner & McQuarrie (2000), Kircher & Raskin (1988), Kugelmass, et al (1968), Patrick & Iacono (1991), Podlesny & Truslow (1993) Kircher & Raskin (1988), Podlesny & Truslow Harris, Horner & McQuarrie (2000), Kircher Idiosyncratic Responses.
Idiosyncratic responses are consistent responses that are unique to the individual and are specific to a question; they may be related to timing, to the response pattern itself, or both. There is argument as to whether an idiosyncratic response should be (Krapohl, 2007) or should not be included as a response indicative of deception because it is “non-scientific” (Honts, 2008). In my opinion idiosyncratic responses should not be used in test data analysis because of the absence of scientific backing. TEST DATA ANALYSIS
In the 1960’s Cleve Backster developed the first manual/numerical scoring system to assign value to deception criteria. Backster’s reported purpose was to assist his students in chart interpretation. Today’s examiner will assign a defensible numerical value that is based on comparison to other questions and there are four manual (numerical) scoring systems for Comparison Question Test (CQT) formats: (Weaver) (Nelson) The USAMPS ((United States Army Military Police School) method These systems have their differences; some subtle and some not so subtle. The ESS, for example, recognizes only the five primary response patterns while other scoring systems use both primary and secondary patterns. Some CQT techniques require the use of a specific scoring system and some techniques are more flexible. The examiner’s scoring must be consistent with the existing research and hopefully with the school he or she attended, but advances in research may require changes in methodology. As an example of why consistency is important; I testified as a rebuttal witness for the defense in a case (State v. Acks) where the prosecution’s expert used three methods (plus his own) in scoring. Test Data Analysis – Digital.
The first computerized scoring system was developed by the Stoelting Company in 1988; it consisted of a device that measured charts coming from an analog instrument. The first totally digital instrument was marketed in 1992 and that instrument included a scoring application. Today, when the examiner uses a digital instrument it will include at least one computer scoring software program and their algorithms will use many of the same parameters used in manual scoring. Digital algorithms tend to be as reliable as blind examiners in scoring of single-issue exams, but that does not mean they are just as accurate. (If you use a broken ruler twice, the measurement technique is reliable.) Garbage in – Garbage out
A computer scoring read-out such as “Deception Indicated – likelihood of deception is greater than .99” is quite impressive. However, impressive is not the same as accurate. Computerized algorithms are faster and thereby more convenient, but they: • are unable to identify correctly or poorly written questions • assume that the questions are written properly • assume that the respondent fully understands the question* • assume that the questions are labeled correctly** • ignore delayed responses that are outside of the response interval *A respondent who only understands the language Farci could be asked questions in English and the computer would not know that the respondent did not understand the questions - all it does is record the respondent’s body. **Mis-labeling the relevant questions as comparison questions and vice-versa. New Approaches to Scoring.
Computerized algorithms are not good at judging the quality of the charts, detecting countermeasures, or considering individual factors that could reduce confidence in the tracings. Computers are, however, excellent tools for measurement and this strength is being put to use in the physical measurement (# of pixels) of patterns. “At times when there is little obvious difference in patterns relatively new concepts such as Respiration Line Length (RLL) and Finger Pulse Line Length (FPLL) can be applied. RLL and FPLL are not intended to replace the existing pattern matching method but they can be used to better gauge slight differences in response intensities” (Krapohl, 2008). “RLL is nothing more than a measure of how much tracing activity occurs in a defined period of time. To help conceptualize RLL, imagine that the tracings were made of string, instead of ink. If one were to cut the string once at stimulus onset and again after 10 seconds had past, then stretched the string to remove the curves, the string would have a fixed length, something that could be measured with a ruler or other tool. In the respiration channel, almost all of the most diagnostic phasic patterns cause that string to shorten: suppression, I/E ratio changes, apnea, and Bradypnea. As a rule, the shorter the RLL is, the more intense the reaction is” (Krapohl, 2008). Also referred to as Finger Pulse Waveform Length, “FPLL is recorded by a plethysmograph placed at the top of the finger and is calculated as the length of the up- and downcurving signal in a certain time window (e.g., 15 s). FPLL is a composite measure of pulse rate (PR) and amplitude (FPA). An orienting response typically results in a decrease of pulse rate (heart rate deceleration) and amplitude (peripheral vasoconstriction) (Lynn, 1966). The stronger the orienting response the shorter the FPLL” (Vandenbosch, 2008). Improvements in test data analysis, especially in measurement continue and the errors described earlier are extreme and should never happen in the field. However, scoring should not be based solely on a computerized scoring system and for now it should be considered a secondary means of scoring. As of 2012 the outcome of a polygraph examination should be based on manual and not digital scoring. Myth or Fact?
John F. Kennedy stated: “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth - persistent, persuasive and unrealistic” (1962 Yale University) and today, the most persistent enemy of those who could benefit from forensic polygraph is a surplus of myth and misconception about the polygraph. Let’s look at some of the more grievous legends: In the 2004 movie “Collateral”, the hit man Vincent arrives in Los Angeles, hires a cab, and goes on a killing spree. During the first stop, the hit man shoots a man who falls from a high building onto the cab. The innocent cab driver Max jumps out of the cab and screams at Vincent about killing the man, to which he calmly replies: “I didn’t kill him; the bullet and the fall did.” Myth: Vincent and everyone else with such a personality will somehow be immune to a polygraph examination. Fact(s): The polygraph instrument is a monitor of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the ANS is not controlled by the value system. While it is true that Vincent and other sociopaths or psychopaths are pathological liars without shame or guilt for their crimes or empathy for their victims, it is not remorse that the polygraph measures. The term pseudologia fantastica applies to habitual or compulsive lying common among the Vincent’s in this world, but it does not imply a lack of an autonomic nervous system (ANS). While it is true that psychopaths are not concerned about their intrusions upon others or with violations of law, especially when their intrusions and violations have resulted in power and/or material rewards for these acts, it is incorrect to assume that a psychopathic person or anyone else for that matter has an on-off switch for their ANS. Do psychopaths have the ability to beat the polygraph?
No. There is a commonly-held belief that Vincent and other psychopaths can “beat” the polygraph (Barland & Raskin, 1973; Ferguson & Miller, 1974; Floch, 1950; Levitt, 1955) because they are without conscience and are very adept at manipulating and deceiving others (Clancy, Noyes, & Travis, 1974; Cleckley, 1964). However, several studies have addressed this issue and the result is consistent; psychopaths are as easy to detect as non-psychopaths. For example: In 1974, as part of his doctoral dissertation, Gordon Barland conducted a study of 77 private polygraph examinations he had conducted between 1973 and 1974. These were private examinations referred by law enforcement, defense and prosecuting attorneys. In that sample the criminal suspects had been psychologically evaluated (MMPI) by Barland as part of the pre-test interview and their respective Pd (psychopathic deviance) scores were weighed against a complex criterion that included the polygraph outcome, the review of a five legal expert panel, and subsequent judicial reviews. A comparison of the 15 highest (top 2%) and 15 lowest (bottom 76%) Pd scores and the outcomes of the polygraph and the reviews showed no statistically significant differences in the two groups. This was later presented at the Society for Psychophysiological Research, Salt Lake City, UT (Barland, 1975) (Barland, 2011). In 1978, Dr. David Raskin and Dr. Robert Hare found that “psychopaths were as easily detected as non-psychopaths, and psychopaths showed evidence of stronger electrodermal responses and heart rate decelerations”. One of the principal scientists performing the study was Robert Hare, a world-renowned expert in the study and identification of psychopaths and author of the Psychopathy Checklist. In this study Dr. Hare led a research team that conducted a mock-crime study using a group of 48 prisoners who were incarcerated in Lower Mainland Regional Correctional Centre in Bumaby, British Columbia. They were all evaluated by Dr. Hare; twenty-four were diagnosed as psychopaths and half were not. Half of each sub-group was “guilty” of taking $20 in a mock crime and the other half was “innocent”. All of the participant inmates (psychopath and non-psychopath) were then examined by Dr. David Raskin (then University of Utah Department of Psychology). Raskin tested the participants with a polygraph instrument using the Utah Zone of Comparison test format. The Utah format was then eight years old and had been developed at the University of Utah. The significant outcomes, after excluding inconclusive tests, were that the overall accuracy rate for all participants was 95%, there were no false negative results in the study, and the psychopaths (guilty and innocent) were tested at a slightly higher rate of accuracy than was the entire group. The psychopaths were tested with an accuracy rate of 95.8% (Raskin, 1978). A laboratory experiment was conducted in 1979 by Kristen D. Balloun & David S. Holmes and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, which compared polygraph results among 34 college students; 18 with high Pd and 16 with low Pd scores. The test type was the Guilty Knowledge Test. There were no significant differences between the two groups in ability to detect hidden knowledge (Balloun, 1979). It is also true that some studies have reported a lessening of electrodermal activity and heart rate in psychopaths (Lorber). However, this was a dampening of response, not an absence. Can specific countermeasures “beat” the polygraph by reversing responses?
No. In a series of studies experimental psychologist Charles Honts found that “without special training in countermeasures (subjects) are unable to beat the polygraph test, even if they have been provided extensive information and suggestions on how they might succeed (Honts, 1987). Countermeasures exist, but they usually identifiable and they cannot reverse “deceptive responses”. This makes mental countermeasures, which are not visible in tracings, the only possibility. Moreover, neither physical nor mental countermeasures have any effect on electrodermal activity (EDA). This can be explained by the fact that the lungs and heart are controlled both by the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches, but the skin is limited to sympathetic control. For example; positive EDA and no significant activity in the other channels is often a sign of deliberate countermeasures. What about Mark Hofmann?
Case: Hofmann was arrested for murder and forgery in February 1986. He initially
maintained his innocence; but rather than risk the death penalty, in January 1987, he
pled guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of theft by deception.
He confessed in open court and in January 1988 was sentenced to life in prison

In November 1985, at his attorney’s request, Mark Hofmann was tested by Dr. Charles Honts at the attorney’s office. The issue was the construction of bombs that killed two people a month earlier and Honts found that Hofmann was non-deceptive when he denied involvement. The charts were blindly scored by Dr. David Raskin and by four other experts in the United States and Canada. They all agreed that Mark Hofmann was telling the truth. Since then about a hundred examiners have blindly scored the charts and the “vast majority” of them have reached the same conclusion. In 1987 Drs. Honts and Raskin went with attorney Ronald Yengich to the Utah State Prison to meet with Hofmann, who then stated that he had been highly anxious and feeling guilty when he took his polygraph test. He stated that he had not studied the polygraph procedure and did not use any medicines or specific countermeasures. He did, however, use self-hypnosis. He told Raskin that he had been practicing self- hypnosis for about 15 years, since the age of 13, and without any knowledge of the polygraph structure had successfully applied it during the test (Raskin, 1990). In a recent communication with Dr. Honts, I was told that Hofmann had significant electrodermal activity (responses). Can countermeasures “beat” the polygraph examiner?
Yes. Countermeasures are a serious problem when an examiner has little experience and/or supervision, but they do not reverse the physiological results. In such a situation there is a mixture of poor interviewing and mental countermeasures. Are countermeasures only used by liars?
No. It is incorrect to assume that countermeasures are always an attempt by a deceptive person to mask their deception (Elaad & Ben-Shakhar, 1991). The motivations vary from a fear of the outcome, to a dislike for the procedure/examiner, to playing games and experimenting. Didn’t Aldridge Ames “beat” the polygraph?
No. Aldridge Ames, the CIA employee who was caught selling top secret information, now brags from his prison cell that he beat the polygraph and the CIA itself agrees that Ames successfully beat the polygraph (Barland, 2011) (Hanford) (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence). It appears to me that he beat the CIA protocol in the first instance and the examiner erred in the second, but he did not beat the polygraph. On the first of two polygraphs following the onset of his espionage, Ames was deceptive (DI) but managed to avoid consequences by feeding spurious but plausible explanations to the examiner (I call this throwing a bone). Years later he took a second CIA test and cleared it (NDI). It was after his apprehension that the FBI reviewed the charts and said they were actually DI. (In all fairness, this was with the aid of hindsight.) The CIA has since changed from its “clinical scoring” protocol. In summation; countermeasure attempts exist and while they can skew the results, they are identifiable and at worst will cause inconclusive results. The motivation varies as does the method used. In my opinion, based on literature and experience, the only countermeasure that really works is not taking the polygraph. Can medicines cancel responses?
No. The notion that certain medicines will serve as that on-off switch is also a myth. My clients are often concerned that: “The police won’t test my client because he is taking . . . My client’s therapist says the polygraph does not work on people taking . . .” The fact of the matter is that there are no medicines which will reverse the outcome and there are no medicines (when taken regularly) that will skew the tracings making them impure and therefore unreadable. The greatest impact that medicine has that relates to the polygraph is when a person has started a new medicine or has suddenly discontinued, without supervision, a prescribed medicine. All individuals and all medicines are different and how those medicines or the lack thereof will impact the body is erratic. It is this unpredictability which will often cause the examiner to discontinue testing when this is reported during a pre-test interview. If unreported, they can make the tracings impure and lead to inconclusive results. The greatest mistake a third party (unless they are the client’s medical doctor) can make is to advise their patient/client to stop taking a certain medicine. This is unnecessary and unsafe. Can beta-blockers be used for countermeasures?
Sure, but that does not mean that this is effective. Most beta-blockers are “cardio selective” which means they block only one response. The polygraph instrument is a multi-channel instrument and a person will have responses in other channels. Non-selective beta blockers such as Propranolol can actually increase the accuracy (Gatchel), probably because of the removal of some tonic activity. What about other drugs? Can they be used for countermeasures?
Yes, but they are not effective either. Responses can be dampened or clouded by other drugs, but not eliminated. A general state influence, whether it was a depressant or stimulant medicine, would have a 'blanket effect' on all questions, not specific questions. Since the scoring of a Comparison Question Technique (CQT) type of polygraph examination is based on a differential comparison of Comparison and Relevant questions, the outcome is not reversed. What about flatliners, people who just don’t respond?
Another myth is often depicted in the media: “she has ice-water in her veins – she is a flatliner.” The truth of the matter is that “flatliners” are dead and polygraphers do not test dead people (at least they shouldn’t). Individuals always show physiological activity, but only the patterns discussed earlier can be used in scoring. Can high anxiety cause false positives?
No. The deception criterion used for the scoring of a CQT is limited to phasic responses and anxiety creates biological noise (tonic responses) which is ignored. Phasic responses are specific to an identifiable stimulus while tonic responses are irregular, more chronic, and non-specific. One can also compare anxiety to medicine (see above) in that they both have a chronic or blanket effect. Anxiety can come to the examination or it can be generated during the examination itself. While I am not qualified to delve into anxiety itself, I will point out that polygraph examiners 1) should not test individuals who at the inception of the examination display what could be called high anxiety and 2) should not create an examination atmosphere that could possibly generate anxiety. If high anxiety doesn’t cause false positives why does it need to be avoided?
For at least two reasons: 1. When there is too much tonic activity an examination will often be inconclusive due to a lack of purity and 2. Because, in theory, if a person with high anxiety was tested, there would be a reduced response. Consider the Yerkes-Dodson Law (YDL) and Wilder’s Law of Initial Values (LIV) both of which suggest that physiological responses are greater in a non-accusatory atmosphere than in a “high anxiety” setting - if the examiner is accusatory, the respondent will be overly aroused and if the examiner is overly friendly, there will be a lack of arousal. In 1908, the YDL was published. Developed by American psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson, the proposition is that optimal task performance occurs at an intermediate level of arousal with relatively poorer performance at both lower and higher arousal levels, leading to an ‘inverted U’ relation between arousal and performance (Yerkes). In 1935 Joseph Wilder, M.D. proposed the “Law of Initial Value (LIV), which states that “the direction of response of a body function to any agent depends to a large degree on the initial level of that function.” (Wilder). Is there a high rate of false positives in all polygraph tests?
No. Like any test technique, the polygraph will have errors, both false positives and false negatives. However, by using only published techniques with known error rates, examiners can avoid techniques with high error rates. For example, the Army MGQT with a false positive rate of .75 can be avoided by not using it. Moreover, the American Polygraph Association (APA) standards require the use of techniques with known error rates and they require a minimum overall accuracy rate of .80 or above. Is body-language used in scoring?
No. Another myth about the polygraph procedure is that body-language is somehow used to determine if a person is being truthful. Behavioral analysis is not part of the diagnostic equation and the analysis of data is limited to the waveforms produced. While behavior, verbal and non-verbal, during the pre-test interview is observed during a pre-test interview, it is only a guide for question formulation and it is not used as a scoring factor. Conclusion
In his controversial 1908 book “On the Witness Stand”, Munsterberg wrote about the “rapid progress of experimental crimino-psychology” and about the physiological assessment of witness credibility, to which Wigmore rejoined in the Illinois Law Review (1909) and his book Wigmore on Evidence (1923) “if there is ever a psychological test for the valuation of witnesses the law will run to meet it.” However, Dean Wigmore’s prophesy has yet to prove itself and the law has been running in the opposite direction. Today’s legal opinions about the polygraph were formed in 1923 and because of polygraph’s disbarment from the court they remain in place. Opinions and facts which could have been challenged in the courtroom and explained by experts are coalesced with myths and misconceptions broadcast on television and reiterated during coffee breaks. This paper has been an attempt to better inform those who could benefit from polygraph. References

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