A polygrapher, also known as a lie detector examiner or polygraph examiner, is a professional trained in the use of the polygraph machine. This machine, often referred to as a lie detector, measures and records several physiological indicators such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while the subject answers a series of questions. The goal is to detect whether the subject is being truthful or deceptive based on their physiological responses.

The Role and Responsibilities of a Polygrapher

Polygraphers play a crucial role in various fields, including law enforcement, criminal investigations, private security, and even pre-employment screenings. Their primary responsibilities include:

  1. Conducting Polygraph Tests: The polygrapher administers the polygraph test by asking a series of pre-determined questions and observing the physiological responses of the subject. The questions typically cover three categories: relevant questions related to the matter under investigation, control questions used as baselines, and irrelevant questions to calm the subject.
  2. Interpreting Results: After administering the test, the polygrapher analyzes the data collected from the polygraph machine. They look for significant changes in the physiological indicators that suggest stress or anxiety, which may indicate deception.
  3. Reporting Findings: Polygraphers compile their findings into a detailed report, which may be used in legal proceedings, employment decisions, or other investigatory contexts. Their analysis must be objective, accurate, and clearly communicated.
  4. Maintaining Equipment: Ensuring the polygraph machine is calibrated and functioning correctly is essential. Polygraphers must regularly maintain and test their equipment to ensure accurate readings.
  5. Training and Certification: Polygraphers often undergo extensive training and certification. They need to understand not only the technical aspects of operating the polygraph machine but also the psychological aspects of interrogation and stress responses.

Skills and Qualifications

To be effective in their role, polygraphers need a specific set of skills and qualifications, including:

  • Analytical Skills: The ability to interpret complex physiological data accurately.
  • Attention to Detail: Precision in monitoring and recording responses during the test.
  • Communication Skills: Clear communication is vital for explaining procedures to subjects and reporting findings.
  • Integrity: A strong sense of ethics and honesty, given the sensitive nature of their work.
  • Technical Proficiency: Understanding how to operate and maintain the polygraph machine.

Career Path and Training

Becoming a polygrapher typically involves several steps:

  1. Education: A background in criminal justice, psychology, or a related field is beneficial. Some positions may require a degree in these areas.
  2. Training Programs: Aspiring polygraphers must complete a specialized training program accredited by organizations such as the American Polygraph Association (APA).
  3. Certification: After training, obtaining certification from a recognized body, such as the APA, is essential.
  4. Experience: Gaining practical experience through internships or entry-level positions helps build the necessary skills and knowledge.

Work Environment

Polygraphers can work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Law Enforcement Agencies: Assisting in criminal investigations and screenings.
  • Private Sector: Conducting pre-employment screenings for private companies.
  • Government Agencies: Working in intelligence and security roles.
  • Independent Contractors: Offering services on a freelance basis to various clients.


Polygraphers, or lie detector examiners, play a pivotal role in the field of lie detection and investigation. Their expertise in administering and interpreting polygraph tests aids in uncovering the truth in various scenarios. With a combination of technical skills, analytical abilities, and ethical integrity, polygraphers help maintain justice and security in their respective fields.

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