Can You Beat a Polygraph Test?

An unfortunate polygraph result can be disadvantageous. This is true no matter if you are under police investigation, on trial or being screened for a job. That is why you may be wondering if there’s a way to beat a polygraph test.

A polygraph test is almost impossible to beat. It’s because a polygraph machine monitors bodily changes that are associated with deceitfulness, over which a person who is undergoing polygraphy has zero control. However, someone who can lie exceptionally well may be able to beat a polygraph.

Planning to lie or tell the truth and want to make sure that the polygraph will cooperate? Keep reading this post. Below, I will discuss some of the things that people do to beat a polygraph and whether or not they work.

polygraph test

How Does a Polygraph Detect When You’re Lying?

A polygraph machine is designed to monitor and record various physiologic processes and changes. When a person lies, the stress it creates is picked up by the instrument in the form of elevated blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and sweating. The polygraph examiner contrasts the reading with the baseline.

If you want to beat a polygraph test, you must first know how a polygraph machine works.

Technically speaking, it’s not the lies you tell that a lie detector machine catches — it’s your various physiologic reactions when you are being dishonest that the instrument picks up.

A polygraph examiner, on the other hand, analyzes them to determine whether or not you are lying.

When hooked up to the machine, anywhere from 4 to 6 sensors are attached to your skin and various body parts.

They are tasked with monitoring your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and sweating. In some instances, depending on the model, things such as your temperature, body movements and brain activity are measured, too.

In order for the polygraph examiner to determine whether the readings are a red flag, he or she measures them against baseline readings obtained prior to the test proper, specifically during the pre-test.

Establishing a baseline is done by having the examinee answer irrelevant questions. Simply put, these questions have very little to no emotional impact on the individual, which is why his or her vital signs are likely to remain within the normal range, thus creating the baseline of physiologic measurements when you are telling the truth.

Some common examples of irrelevant questions are:

  • Is your name [name of the person]?
  • Is today Monday?
  • Are you sitting down?
  • Are the lights on in this room?

And then there are also the so-called control questions. Also sometimes referred to as probable lie control questions because they force the examinee to lie, these questions are asked for the examiner to have an idea of the person’s vitals when under stress. So, in other words, control questions create a baseline of measurements when you lie.

Here are some examples of control questions:

  • Have you ever told a lie in your life?
  • Have you ever borrowed something and failed to return it?
  • Have you ever stolen anything?

By establishing baseline readings for both when a person is telling the truth and fabricating lies, a polygraph examiner can analyze the data obtained by the lie detector instrument so much better.

What Do People Do to Try to Beat a Polygraph Test?

There are different things people do in their attempt to pass a polygraph examination.

Some of the most common ones are biting their tongues and placing a tack in their shoes. There are those who practice regulating their breathing rates and throwing off irrelevant questions to alter the baseline readings.

Individuals who are guilty have a lot to lose if they fail their polygraph test. And that is why many of them will do anything and everything necessary to pass it — to cause a false negative result.

Here are some of the things you may give a try if you want to beat a lie detector test:

Alter irrelevant questions results

Just like what was talked about earlier, the polygraph examiner will ask you a bunch of irrelevant questions before the polygraph testing proper begins in order to have an idea of what your vitals are when being truthful. And by making it seem like your physiologic processes are excited, you might get the machine confused.

For instance, you may breathe faster and shallower when asked a question — besides your respiratory rate, it can also accelerate your heart rate and may even increase your blood pressure.

Doing it, however, may alert the examiner who is also trained to also observe an examinee at all times.

Master the art of lowering your breathing rate

Long before you undergo a lie detector test, start practicing taking slow deep breaths at all times. Doing it can help your body relax. As a matter of fact, scientists say that maintaining 6 breaths per minute can cause physical and mental relaxation, which is something that may help you appear truthful when being deceitful.

It’s exactly for this reason why someone with a panic attack is instructed to breathe slowly and deeply.

Unfortunately, not everyone can maintain taking slow deep breaths and stay calm during a polygraph exam. This is especially true when those relevant questions that are related to the crime come flying in.

Dig your nails into your palm

Some people attempt to confuse a lie detector machine by keeping their physiologic responses elevated whether or not they are telling the truth by digging their nails into their palm. So, in other words, your other hand, the one without the contraptions in your fingertips (galvanometers) should be in a fist throughout the test.

But since many polygraph examinees are doing it and examiners are well-aware of this tactic, it’s not unlikely for you to be asked to keep your palm in plain sight from start to finish.

As a result, there are those who resort to biting their tongues in order to achieve the same effect.

Place a tack in your shoe

Here’s another very popular way to keep your stress levels elevated during strategic moments while hooked to a polygraph machine: placing a tack in one of your shoes right next to your big toe, which you will have to press against it whenever necessary. With this, you can possibly alter the readings of the instrument as you please.

But it doesn’t have to be a tack — it can be a small nail or a piece of broken glass.

Since polygraph examiners know that some individuals may want to beat the test by using this method, it’s not uncommon for examinees to be asked to remove their shoes.

Keep your mind distracted

Especially when answering both control and relevant questions, consider distracting your mind. There are many ways to go about this, depending on which one works for you the best.

For instance, you can daydream and go to your safe place or attempt to recite the alphabet backward.

When answering irrelevant questions, on the other hand, think of something that scares or angers you in order to elevate your vitals, which can bring down the difference in the readings between your physiologic activities when being truthful and deceitful to a minimum or even non-existence.

Just Before You Attempt to Beat a Polygraph Test

The different things that take place in your body, from the number of times your heart beats per minute to how much sweat your sweat glands churn out, can be measured by a polygraph machine. And when significant changes in them occur as a result of stress or anxiety, it could indicate that you are telling a lie.

Different people have different ways to try to beat a lie detector test. But with an experienced examiner, an attempt at deception, such as by doing the things we discussed above, won’t go unnoticed.

Related Questions

How long does a polygraph test take?

The length of polygraph examinations can vary. However, most of them can last anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. Some can be 4 hours long, depending on the polygraph examiner. The lie detector test has different phases. The polygraph examinee is attached to the instrument for about 15 to 20 minutes only.

Can you quit a polygraph test while taking it?

The polygraph examinee may request the examiner to stop the lie detector test at any given time or for any reason, such as if he or she is feeling uncomfortable. Afterward, arrangements for another polygraph examination should be made for the same examiner or a different one at another time.

Read Next: How Accurate are Polygraph Tests

Disclaimer: The content is intended for informational purposes only and does not contain advice on criminal and investigative questions and inquiries. If you need professional help, please check with your state authorities.

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