Polygraph testing, a tool widely used in various sectors for truth verification, relies on accurately measuring physiological responses to specific questions. However, the integrity of this data can be compromised by artifacts, which are essentially noise in the data not related to the psychophysiological responses being measured.

What Are Artifacts?

Artifacts are any observable changes in a person’s polygraph reactions that are not caused by the psychological or physiological stimuli of the test questions. These can include:

  • Physical Movements: Shifting, adjusting posture, or any minor movements.
  • External Disturbances: Sounds or interruptions from the environment.
  • Physiological Responses: Unrelated to the questions being asked, such as coughing, sneezing, or even heart palpitations (PVCs).

Impact on Polygraph Results

The presence of artifacts can lead to misinterpretation of the polygraph results. For instance, a sudden movement might resemble a physiological response to a question, potentially indicating deception where there is none. This makes it crucial to identify and eliminate these artifacts to maintain the test’s accuracy.

Identifying Artifacts

Polygraph examiners are trained to recognize and differentiate artifacts from genuine physiological responses. This identification process involves:

  • Observation: Monitoring for any physical or environmental changes during the test.
  • Review: Analyzing the polygraph charts for irregular patterns that may indicate an artifact.
Managing Artifacts

Once identified, artifacts must be managed to ensure they do not affect the final analysis. This involves:

  • Exclusion: Removing the affected data from the analysis set.
  • Retesting: In some cases, asking the question again to obtain a clean response.

Ensuring Test Integrity

To safeguard the reliability of polygraph testing, examiners must:

  • Prepare the Environment: Minimizing potential sources of artifacts.
  • Monitor Closely: Staying vigilant for any signs of artifacts during the test.
  • Continuous Training: Staying updated on best practices for identifying and managing artifacts.

Conclusion

Artifacts pose a significant challenge in polygraph testing, potentially clouding the clarity of the physiological data collected. Through vigilant observation, careful analysis, and a thorough understanding of these disturbances, examiners can effectively minimize their impact, ensuring the integrity and reliability of the polygraph as a tool for uncovering the truth.