Polygraphs measure changes in physiological indicators such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity during a series of questions. Physical responses can reveal whether someone is lying. Some employers still conduct polygraph tests as part of their screening process, despite polygraph tests being controversial. It leads many people to research ways to cheat or beat a polygraph test to avoid failing or facing accusations.
Myth – You can beat the test by staying calm and relaxed
There is a common myth about beating a polygraph test. Physiological reactions won’t show you when you lie if you control stress and anxiety. The challenge is to accomplish this. Breathing, perspiration, heart rate, and blood pressure change even as you feel calm. Not to mention the baseline questions asked before critical questions aim to measure your normal relaxed state.
Fact – Physical countermeasures are ineffective and easily detected
Some people believe taking drugs, biting their tongue, placing tacks in their shoes or other physical methods will help them beat the polygraph by altering their physiological responses. However, the person administering the test is trained to notice these signs. Subtle movements and behaviors appear during the exam. Physical countermeasures also risk negatively impacting your ability to understand questions and communicate clearly, which is an automatic red flag.
Myth – Answering questions slowly can fool the test
Drawing out responses, repeating questions aloud, and other stalling tactics won’t work. The reason is that yes/no questions require direct answers. The polygrapher is assessing physiological responses at that moment of the answer, not throughout your stalling. Slow responses may frustrate the polygrapher, but they will not distort results.
Fact – Private polygraph schools don’t reveal foolproof techniques
You hear ads for private training programs that promise to teach you scientifically proven ways to beat any lie detector test. However, reputable programs will openly share that no approach is guaranteed and effectiveness largely depends on the examiner’s skills and instrument quality. If a school promises you’ll learn special techniques to lie without detection, they are likely exaggerating what they reasonably deliver.
Myth: Hypnosis can make you undetectable
Some believe that techniques like self-hypnosis or guided hypnosis with a therapist will allow you hypnotize yourself without experiencing physiological reactions. However, there is no scientific evidence that learned hypnosis fully suppresses natural bodily reactions. At most, it may reduce only some responses, but not all. Again, the baseline questions help determine your normal state including nerves or hypnotic trance.
Fact: The examiner ultimately makes the interpretation
While it’s true the polygraph instrument monitors responses, the examiner is the one who ultimately interprets truth or deception. They consider your baseline reactions, question context, their observations of your behavior, and patterns in the results. Even the most subtly altered physiological response will not automatically mean you failed if the seasoned examiner sees no clear indication of deception.