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Polygraphs and deception

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Polygraphs as a means of lie detection basis itself on the premise that when a person lies, the process induces conscious conflict, which leads to anxiety and fear, and that physiological changes that can be measured and interpreted accompany these emotions. Much as it can accurately detect these changes, the detector only becomes effective in ideal candidates, i.e. candidates who believe in the lie detector. It has been proven that innocent subjects can fail the test since it is not only lying that can induce anxiety and fear but other factors such as the matter under investigation, the interviewers themselves, the environment of investigation and the character of both the interviewer and the subject. That polygraphs have been termed as effective tools of social control is an incriminating observation. This control arises from the fact that the strapping of the subject into a make believe lie detector increases the effectiveness of the interrogator and as such leads to coercion of the subject. Evidence obtained through coercion is not admissible. On the other hand, when used objectively, the polygraph can be used in effectively screening subjects like happens in interviews for jobs. This depends on the line of questioning done and the environment of application. All in all, use of the polygraph elicits mixed reactions on ethics. Thus, the use of these machines should be discouraged since; first because it’s over falsified accuracy allows a high degree of coercion by non-violence and second because it is easy for seasoned nonreactors to beat its system.

Deception in an admission seeking interview can be legally used. This is done through the use of certain tactics that border on misrepresentation of facts, but that are within the legal confines of the suspect and also within the stipulates of the Miranda rules. A most commonly used lie is where the interviewers downplay the seriousness of the offence or entice the suspects with the use of promises that are either vague or indefinite. In other times, the interrogator can inform the suspects that they are free to go and by such circumvent the requirements of the Miranda rules by insinuating that the interview is non-custodial. As far as the tools of deception do not involve the creation of false evidence or coercion, the investigator is legally permitted to use them. The issue that is contestable is the ethical implications of the deception used. These tactics rely heavily on the integrity of the interrogator and were the subject to discover the deception and call the investigators bluff, the investigator will find it harder to elicit a confession or even make progress in their investigation. With this in mind, it is believed that the argument still rages out on the issue of deception in admission seeking interviews and its merits and demerits should be evaluated on a case to case basis.


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Albrecht, S. W., Albrecht, C. C., Albrecht, C. O., & Zimbelman, M. F. (2009). Fraud examination. Mason (OH: South-Western.

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