Understanding control questions is a fundamental aspect of interpreting a polygraph test.
These are the type of questions used by polygraph examiners to set a baseline for an individual’s physiological responses, which typically include heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and skin conductivity.
Control questions are designed to be answerable with an unequivocal truth or an instructed lie, allowing the examiner to distinguish between the physiological indicators of lying and telling the truth.
In the context of a polygraph examination, you might encounter what are referred to as “irrelevant questions”. These are different from control questions as they are neutral and generally do not provoke significant emotional responses.
However, control questions, sometimes called comparison questions, are more emotionally provocative to ensure that they elicit a reaction similar to the one that deception would cause.
This strategy provides a comparison for responses given to relevant questions directly related to the matter at hand.
For instance, a typical control question could be as simple as confirming your name, while the one you are asked to answer untruthfully might be set to gauge your reaction to deliberate falsehoods.
Through the use of these control or comparison questions, examiners conduct a subject’s physiological readings crucial for detecting deception.
Basics of Polygraph Testing
In polygraph testing, control questions are integral to the examination process, assessing how your physiological responses vary to different types of questions.
Purpose of Control Questions
Control questions serve as a benchmark to determine your baseline responses during a polygraph test. These questions aren’t directly related to the incident under investigation but are designed to provoke a reaction that can be compared against reactions to relevant questions.
By measuring these responses, the examiner can infer deception or honesty in the subject’s answers to pertinent inquiries.
Mechanics of a Polygraph Machine
A polygraph machine records a variety of physiological indicators such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductivity.
It’s essential to understand that this device doesn’t detect lies directly; instead, it monitors and logs physiological changes that suggest psychological stress that may occur when you are not being truthful.
Designing Control Questions
In polygraph testing, control questions are crucial in differentiating between truthful and deceptive responses. They provide a baseline to compare against the relevant questions related to the investigation.
Characteristics of Effective Control Questions
Effective control questions should provoke a level of emotional response similar to that which the relevant questions are expected to trigger. Your control questions should be:
- Ambiguous: They should not be answerable with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
- Broadly Relatable: The subject should have a reasonable probability of having experienced the topic of the question.
- Emotionally Stimulating: They must provoke an emotional response, though not necessarily one as strong as the relevant questions.
For instance, an effective control question might be about a common yet emotionally-laden situation, such as lying about a minor matter.
Difference Between Relevant and Control Questions
To conduct a proper polygraph test, you must understand the distinct roles of relevant and control questions:
- Relevant Questions: They pertain directly to the matter under investigation. For example, “Did you embezzle funds from your employer?”
- Control Questions: These are unrelated to the specific incident but are designed to evoke an emotional response. For example, “Have you ever betrayed someone who trusted you?”
Understanding the distinction between the two helps ensure the polygraph test provides a reliable measure of the subject’s physiological responses to questioning.
Types of Control Questions
In a polygraph test, control questions are designed to set a baseline for your physiological responses. They are used to compare and contrast with questions relevant to the investigation.
Irrelevant Control Questions
Irrelevant control questions are those that are unrelated to the issue at hand. They’re included in the test to provide a baseline of your normal physiological responses.
An example of an irrelevant control question might be about mundane facts like “Is today Monday?”
Probable-Lie Control Questions
Probable-lie control questions involve inquiries where the examiner expects that you might not answer truthfully, based on human nature and common experiences.
They are not directly related to the specifics of the case but are designed to induce a reaction which can then be compared to your responses to relevant questions. An example could be asking “Have you ever told a lie to cover up a mistake?”
Process of Polygraph Examination
A polygraph examination involves a structured process to ensure the accuracy and validity of the results. You’ll encounter a careful progression from an initial interview to the careful formulation of questions.
During the pre-test interview, the examiner will collect background information and clarify any issues that may surface during testing. Your honesty here is crucial as it establishes the baseline for the polygraph.
This phase includes discussing the nature of the test, the questions to be asked, and setting comfortable conditions for the examination.
Question formulation is a critical step where the examiner prepares specific inquiries for the polygraph test.
Questions are designed to be clear and direct, with the potential inclusion of control questions that are used to gauge your physiological responses to truth and deception.
It’s important for you to understand these questions, as they are used to distinguish between truthful and deceptive answers.
Interpreting Control Question Responses
In a polygraph test, control questions are designed to gauge your typical physiological response. Your reactions to these questions are critical for establishing a baseline and distinguishing between truth and deception.
Analyzing Physiological Responses
When you answer a control question during a polygraph, experts carefully observe your physiological responses, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductivity.
A stronger reaction to relevant questions compared to control questions can be indicative of deception. Conversely, greater concern to control questions might suggest truthfulness.
Establishing Baselines for Truthfulness
To accurately interpret your responses, it’s essential to establish a baseline by analyzing how you react to questions known to be true.
This reference point allows polygraph examiners to compare your physiological responses to both irrelevant and relevant questions throughout the test. Establishing this baseline is key for assessing the veracity of your answers.