Last updated: February 24, 2019
Topic: LawLaw Enforcement
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The scene of criminal investigation in the global arena of law enforcement has been utilizing polygraph tests in obtaining sufficient and necessary information from individual testimonies, clamoring all the more for a veritable and verifiable resolution to crimes ranging from the less up to the extremely severe. There remains an apparent concern over the reliability of the polygraph tests given to a broad range of persons, and that the question regarding the guarantee of its correspondence to factual events, hence, its truthfulness, continues to be an open-ended dilemma.

There are at least three arguments which can be presented in support of the claim that polygraph tests are indeed reeking with flaws. The extent of its scope can vary, stretching from the grandest narrative that includes the broadest set of data that is of wanting down to the most minuscule detail that may very well draw a fine line between guilt and justice. There are at least three contentions that can be slugged against the definitive status of polygraph tests.

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One vital critique against the use of polygraph tests in criminal investigation is that there is hard doubt as to whether the physiological responses and changes in a person undergoing the test are supportive of the bases for the results of the test. In fact, these bodily changes are merely a fraction of the entire anatomy of the human body when it responds to both external and internal stimuli both prior to and during the polygraph test.

It should be noted, moreover, that the physiological changes that occur in a person’s anatomy, such as a drop in blood pressure or a stiffening of the muscles, during a polygraph test do not precisely install the necessary and sufficient condition for these changes to be solely attributed to the test itself exclusively.

Rather, there remains the possibility that, indeed, these consequent alterations in the physique of the individual under interrogation may have been caused by other external factors such as the location where the test has been executed, prior health deficiencies of the individual being questioned, emotional state of the individual which may reflect that of an event isolated from the issue at hand, and the list goes on.

Thus, the guarantee as to whether these bodily changes can be exclusively categorized as apparent reactions of the individual simply is not clear. Though there may be cases where the viability of the test may readily attest to the anatomical alteration of the person, there is no clear defining mark as to what should be counted as bodily reactions to the set of questions given in the test and what should be filed as unnecessary data.

The problems can be more revealing as it may lead us to raise further skepticism on the rigidity of the polygraph test’s accuracy in terms of relegating physical responses to that of the test itself. Another crucial issue that must be noted is that there is no indubitable guarantee if the expert or the proper authority regulating the test and identifying as well as interpreting the delicate strands of data gathered can satisfactorily and flawlessly obtain the objective results and verify its truthfulness as compared to an ordinary man who is placed on the shoes of the authority.

Though the apparent difference can be seen in terms of the professional background between the expert and the common man, it does not, however, prove to be a solid argument for citing the former as the only individual who can verify the test. In fact, there is hardly any sound argument which extols the expert from being the sole autonomous person who is exclusively entitled to interpret the data from the polygraph test. The ordinary man may have no expertise on the technicalities of the procedures in examining the data obtained. This is true and is hardly debatable.

However, the critical element of the post-test dwells on the very interpreting act of the data acquired. There is specifically no solid scientific evidence which support the very authority of the expert as compared to a non-expert who derives for oneself the validity of an individual’s statement through other methods. That is, each of the two (the expert utilizing the polygraph test and the non-expert applying a rather different method) may arrive at either different interpretations or similar translations of the paper results of the test.

Assuming that the expert has arrived at a different conclusion against that of the common man, it does not concretely support the claim that the former has obtained the objective data and interpretations and that the latter has failed to meet the intended purpose. Quite on the contrary, if both arrive at the same set of interpretation with regards to an individual’s narrative or testimony, then there can be hardly any difference at all with the processes both have undertaken in arriving at the validity of the respondent’s answers.

Or indeed, whatever the results of the interpretations will be in the end, there is really no essential difference between that of the expert and of the common man’s interpretation for both operate on levels of uncertainty. Lastly, there are supporting evidences which will show that polygraph tests can be “beaten” through effective strategies which are also called as countermeasures.

It includes mobility of the body on a basic level, the application of pharmacological elements which modify stimulation patterns as well as the subtle variations observed on the behavioral patterns of the individual which can be done by inciting a degenerative factor regarding the confidence of the person in question with regards to the polygraph examination. Undoubtedly, the polygraph machine merely plots down on paper what is observable in the reactions of the person, and that the writings on the paper do not essentially convey anything unless interpreted in several ways.

It does not conclusively interpret the data as valid or scientifically and legally reliable per se. However, even if several skepticisms have already been argued against the use of polygraph tests in criminal investigation, these tests are still used in many countries. The very reason to this is not that these countries have a lack of confidence in their law-enforcing bodies in the attainment of truth on criminal cases that they are compelled to draw the focus of their investigation on polygraph tests.

Rather, these polygraph tests continue to harbor support from several governments because they have a pragmatic effect both in the resolution of criminal activities and in the attainment of truth. One example to this claim is that polygraph tests are claimed to be sophisticated machines which can elicit unexpected consequences, such as the cases of individuals who, after knowing that they are beginning to fail the polygraph test, immediately confess their wrongdoings.

There are also cases where the individuals who lied in the test find themselves caught between fallacious responses and substantial evidence which corroborate on their guilt. Nevertheless, this pragmatic grounding on the validity and efficiency of polygraph tests still do not provide the essential and solid grounding in establishing the legal justification of its use in criminal resolution and law enforcement. What it does is to simply interpret the immediate physiological changes observed after a set of questions are given and responded upon by an individual.

Further, the interpretation is not conclusively drawn from a logical ground in the sense that the recorded data do not necessarily amount to leading one to draw solid and sensible conclusions that inevitably follow from the elicited responses. Central to polygraph tests are the physiological alterations in the individual. The analysis and understanding of the set of replies are simply established by the array of questions which are by and large construed as secondary or supplementary factors.

In conclusion, polygraph tests have not yet reached a level of maturity which can greatly assure people of its validity in law enforcement and criminal investigation. The question as to whether these tests will ever achieve that significant level of maturity is yet to be seen. The issue of reliability greatly posits a burdensome challenge on the part of the polygraph test itself. Bibliography Jussim, D. (1988). Drug Tests and Polygraphs: Essential Tools or Violations of Privacy: Julian Messner.

The central idea of the book is that both drug and lie detecting tests lead to the infraction to one’s right to privacy albeit they have already taken a role in law enforcement. The book provides another idea regarding the essentiality of polygraph tests if indeed they are essential in the first place. Clifton, C. (1991). Deception Detection: Winning The Polygraph Game: Paladin Press. The book asserts that fear is the polygrapher’s most commanding arsenal in manipulating the polygraph test. Yet, the book offers varied means on how to go beyond the command of polygraph tests.

Hoffman, E. (2001). Psychological Testing at Work: How to Use, Interpret, and Get the Most Out of the Newest Tests in Personality, Learning Style, Aptitudes, Interests, and More! (1st ed. ): McGraw-Hill. The book offers revelations on several psychological tests which are similar in light to the polygraph tests only that the former has very little concern over the physiological alterations to an individual. Nevertheless, it provides insights which are crucial and equally significant to that of the other sources in determining the reliability of polygraph tests.

Matte, J. A. (1980). The Art and Science of the Polygraph Technique: Charles C. Thomas. The book offers the basic principles behind polygraph tests as well as reveals some of the important features of the test. It also provides a handful of insights in determining the reliability of polygraph tests in resolving crimes. Holden, H. (2006). To Be a U. S. Secret Service Agent: Zenith Press. The book mentions short yet critical insights as to the unreliability of polygraph tests used as evidence in criminal investigation and legal resolutions of criminal cases.