I’m going to do this blog as a bit of a product review, look for some positive and negatives in this home polygraph test, the equipment and how it is purported to be used.
There was an article on the Daily Mail that prompted me to right about this and I’m considering how in depth I want to go (and how in depth you want me to go) about lies, the ethical nature of testing for lies, who should do it, why we should try and catch out deceivers etc.
In the end a product review will probably suffice. I will throw in some science when needed but will keep it as light as possible.
What is the Home Polygraph Test?
I found a number of sites that sell this home polygraph test and most of them seem to be advertising them as a ‘USB Polygraph Machine’.
They are clearly intended as a ‘plug and play’ solution. The test includes a box which is being called a ‘real polygraph machine’ a USB connection (obviously) and components to measure:
“pulse, breathing, sweat, and body language (from user input)”
The pulse will be measured by a ‘Pulse Finger Clip’. The breathing by a single ‘Breathing Apparatus’ on the abdomen. The ‘sweat’ will be picked up by 2 silver plates called the ‘Skin Galvanisation Finger Wraps’ and the body language will be put into the program by us (scary).
What Can it be Used for?
The marketing blurb for this equipment seems to claim that you can set it up as a profitable side business in a bar and ask the regulars if they want a test.
They also claim the home polygraph is:
“Great for parties, hen nights, stag dos, truth or dare games, and more! Is your roommate stealing from you? Is your significant other cheating on you? Find out now!”
Apparently, if you purchase this machine you can interview suspects just like the FBI. I’m not entirely convinced, even with the claim that the accuracy is 80% – 99%.
On a very positive note the creators Swarmiware, although pushing this as a heavily commercialised ‘lie detector’, actually speak of the polygraph warmly.
They say it works and that it was even tested on the show MythBusters and neither presenter could trick the machine or the examiner.
Do you want more information and more of a breakdown about polygraph accuracy? Check this blog out.
Pros and Cons
I’m going to split the pros and cons into 2: firstly the pros and cons for the equipment and then for the use of USB polygraph.
Home Polygraph Test Equipment
- It provides the 3 most basic components of the polygraph.
- The ‘skin galvanisation finger wraps’ as there known are still being used by some trained examiners.
- Cheaper than a real polygraph.
- The ‘real’ polygraph machine sold as part of this kit is not a real polygraph machine. Based on the chart pictures I have found there is nothing real about what it measures.
- The ‘skin galvanisation finger wraps’ are actually being phased out and replaced with medical grade sensors.
- They also don’t measure sweat but that’s a false marketing point.
- There is no information about the pulse finger clip or what the frequency is for the infrared light (which is actually crucial).
- Only 1 breathing strap. People breathe in 2 different places and is actually a poor indicator of deception.
- The strap is placed on the abdomen; 80% of people breathe in their chest anyway.
- People overly rely on ‘body language’ as an indicator of deception. There are some indicators but they are extremely unreliable.
Are you interested in learning everything there is to know about the polygraph equipment? I have done a series of blogs which covers all the components here.
Home Polygraph Test Use
- Can provide lots of entertainment
- Cheaper and less pressure than an actual polygraph test
- £99.00 is quite a lot of money for a stag do, or simple truth or dare game.
- The equipment used is unlikely to be scientifically valid to be accurate enough.
- No real understanding by the user of what questions should be asked or in what way, or why.
- No real understanding by the user of what they are looking at on the screen.
- Don’t actually turn into an FBI investigator (disappointing)!
- Simply pulling the accuracy figures of a legitimate polygraph test (although no one should ever tell you it’s 99% accurate outright, complicated statistics are involved) does not make a simplified, commercialised box accurate at anything.
- Another piece of false marketing.
As you might be able to tell I struggled to come up with many pros. I tried, promise.
This should be used for entertainment purposes only. As long as people know that then please continue. A polygraph can lead to hilarious and honest outcomes – at a stag do or hen party. Not when it comes to serious thefts, infidelity, or screening.
Although I still dispute the price tag, to really appeal as an entertainment device the price could be lower.
Despite the positive praise the retailer is trying to get across, what is being sold does simply not fall into the same category. The equipment and you, the person using it, simply aren’t accurate enough or trained in the right way to fully understand.
As one reviewer mentioned, when they tested their housemate whom they suspected of thieving, the housemate was caught out lying by the USB polygraph and eventually confessed.
That is fantastic, the only problem is the reliability. The whole point of a scientific test is to be valid (measure what it says) and reliable (measure whatever it says consistently). When done at home using this equipment the reliability is as flimsy as Donald Trumps comb over. Actually, that’s probably sturdier.
Also, when you spring a test like this on someone and start asking them random questions with no preparation, I can guarantee you everyone will react, whether they are guilty, innocent, indifferent, angelic – everyone will react.
So please, if you want to use this go ahead, but only at parties or in circumstances that aren’t serious.
It’s a good icebreaker and good embarrassment tool for friends but don’t try to convince people its the bees knees and that you know what the lines on the screen mean. The worlds lying issues can’t be solved with this.
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