Most people obtain their polygraph "knowledge" from researching the internet, watching television. There have been a number of talk and reality shows as well as soapies and dramas that portray a polygraph test being done. In reality it would never be accurate to conduct a test in front of an audience or live air. In most cases these are staged for the audience and for effect.
Here are some things you should know about polygraphs and why they are often not reliable when done for television / Media:
- Polygraph exams can not be done in front of an audience.
- Polygraph exams must be done in a controlled environment with no distractions
- Polygraph accuracy drops as you add more questions (there is usually a limit of 3 to 4 relevant questions permitted per examination)
- Polygraph answers are limited to "yes" and "no" (narrative answers not done)
- Polygraph questions are spread out so that reactions have time to dissipate from the previous question (the average time between questions should be 20 to 25 seconds)
- Movement by the examinee causes distortions with the graphs and ultimately the test results (the data becomes unreliable)
- Polygraph exams must in fact be done at least 3 times before a scientific decision can be rendered (an acquaintance calibration test is also done as the 1st chart before the others)
- Polygraph examinations take approximately 90 mins+ or longer if done correctly
- Polygraph questions must be objective - about facts - not about opinions or feelings
- Surprise questions are not permitted (all questions are reviewed before the test)
Are polygraph tests on television real?
Sometimes they are, but most of the time they are not. When a highly qualified examiner conducts polygraphs for television, the exams are done off-camera before the show and can take several hours. The examiner may then may re-enact a small portion of the exam for the audience, so what you see is never an actual polygraph test.
We have often had appearances on radio, TV and movies / film. This is done for general public information and awareness and perhaps for the effect in a scene.