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In light of the comments of the Morand Commission, the recent Congressional study in the U.S., and major proponents and critics of polygraph use in criminal investigations-all of whom agree there is no scientific evidence supporting the validity of polygraph testing in employment and have recommended the abolition of its use for these purposes-the B.C. Civil Liberties Association urges the provincial government to abolish the use of the polygraph in employment in this province.
We now turn to the problems of the models for polygraph use that have been designed for lie detection in criminal investigations.
1. Modern medical research indicates that certain physical responses traditionally through to be automatic or uncontrollable by mental effort are in fact not automatic at all, or at least are only partially so. Individuals vary in their innate abilities to control blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, breathing and other physical responses, but practice will teach all subjects to control responses to some extent. However, a fundamental tenet of polygraph testing is that such control is not possible, otherwise the physical part of the tests can be fixed by the subject's control of the four monitoring channels of the polygraph.
The ability to alter body functions is known as biofeedback. Reading guilt or innocence into stress-induced physiological reactions is a tenuous business when the reactions themselves can be controlled. In fact, the entire case for the value of polygraph testing can be dismissed on the basis of evidence that automatic responses are largely discretionary, and the degree of control can be improved. The test can be fixed by anyone, to varying degrees.
2. Humans react emotionally to their environment and to any stress in that environment in different ways depending on:
individual mental traits (lability)
the time of day
what has happened immediately before
their rapport with the interviewer
how their physical characteristics react with the test apparatus (for example, they may be obese or a blood pressure cuff may be too tight, or the room is hot, or they have skin pigmentation or they sweat more, which affects the galvanic skin response readings)
how they see the world around them, or
how their body deals with stress.
Out of all this variation in human response comes a clear indication that human reaction in the polygraph testing situation, using the crude physical and psychological measures of the procedure, can lead to no conclusions about its effectiveness, since responses are simply not comparable to a defensible paradigm.
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