Are you scheduled to take a lie detector test at work? It’s an unnerving experience when your boss tells you he plans to test the staff. However, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about. The polygraph exam is remarkably accurate, and it can tell between someone anxious and someone being deceptive with their answers.
That said, there are strategies you can take to prevent an inaccurate result. Keeping your head about you the day before the test and the day of the exam helps you retain your sanity and live your life without anxiety ruining your day.
Here are the dos and don’ts of taking a lie detector test.
The Dos of Taking Lie Detector Tests
Do Prepare for Your Polygraph Exam
It’s fine to prepare yourself for the exam. Doing so removes your anxiety around the lie detector test and its outcome. Adopting strategies to help keep yourself calm is a great way to prevent tension from flaring your fight-or-flight response during the questioning process, ensuring accuracy with the test results.
Do Research the Polygraph Exam
Your preparation should include research into how the lie detector test works. Study how the instrumentation, software, and examiner look for deceptive behavior in examinees. Learn how the fight-or-flight response activates in the body, its impact on the polygraph device, and the examiner’s interpretation of this feedback.
The examiner prefers you do this before the test. By increasing your knowledge of the polygraph device and the exam process, you remove the uncertainty surrounding the fear of the unknown. This fear is the primary activator of the fight-or-flight response. So, by learning more about it, you do yourself and the examiner a favor.
Do Understand Your Rights
The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA) offers employees protection from their employers’ abuse of polygraph policies. All employers and polygraph examiners must abide by the guidelines set in the EPPA when implementing polygraph policy in the workplace.
For instance, your employer must give you advanced notice of the test at least 48 hours before the exam date. You have a right to refuse to take the exam, and there’s nothing your boss can do to intimidate you into taking the test. They also can’t fire you if you refuse their request.
The EPPA protects you from your employer abusing their authority and governs what the examiner can and can’t do or ask you during the exam. If the examiner or employer violates the EPPA legislation, you have a right to pursue legal action against them with the assistance of an attorney.
Do Ask the Examiner Questions
If you have questions and concerns regarding the polygraph exam, ask the examiner about them. They have a duty to fully inform you about everything concerning the polygraph process and how it pertains to the EPPA.
The examiner’s goal, other than the task of running the exam, is to make you feel comfortable taking the test. They know that answering your questions dampens your anxiety, improving the accuracy of the exam results.
The examiner expects everyone that walks into the exam room to feel nervous. They have experience assisting examinees with entering a calm and relaxed state to take the lie detector test. If you have any anxiety issues during the polygraph, tell your examiner. They don’t have a right to keep you in the room, and you can leave whenever you want, with no repercussions from your employer.
Do Follow Your Regular Routine
Stick to your normal routine the day before and the day of the polygraph exam. Breaking your routine primes the sympathetic nervous system to activate the fight-or-flight (FoF) response. The FoF is what the examiner uses to assess you for deceptive behavior. If you break the routine, you’ll feel more nervous than you should when entering the exam room.
Have your morning shower, get your workout in, and enjoy your morning cup of coffee. Do everything you normally would on an ordinary day, and you’ll prepare yourself for the events to come. The human mind thrives off routine, and routine breeds stability in our mental state; straying from it builds anxiety.
Do Eat Properly
Have your evening meal the night before the exam and focus on foods with healthy fats and protein; avoid carbs. Carbs play havoc with your blood glucose levels, making you feel sluggish and unresponsive. Do the same in the morning; if you eat breakfast, have some eggs and toast rather than a bowl of sugary cereal.
The sugar in the cereal will make you crash and feel weak and sluggish halfway through the morning. You’ll likely have to compensate for this effect by loading up on coffee, which isn’t a great idea – but we’ll discuss that a bit later in this post.
Do Drink Water
Stay hydrated the day before the test and on the morning of the exam. Hydration plays a key role in circulation and moving nutrients through the body. Ensure you sip on water throughout the morning and take a hydration product like Liquid IV to give your body the essential minerals it needs to remain adequately hydrated.
If you experience dehydration, it’s going to affect your nervous system. Your brain starts to think you’re entering survival mode, priming the sympathetic nervous system and FoF response. As a result, you’ll feel more anxious because your body is desperate for water, which might affect your exam room performance.
Do Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential for productivity and optimal brain function. When we sleep, the brain goes into recovery mode. It clears the neural pathways of toxins built up during the day, helping us think clearly the following morning. If you don’t sleep well, you’ll feel hazy and tired.
When you’re in this mental state, your level of awareness drops. As a result, the sympathetic nervous system primes the FoF response to ensure that you have energy and awareness for the task and are ready to respond to threats – like the polygraph exam.
Do Meditate and Breathe
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, don’t worry, that’s a natural response. Clear your mind by taking a hot bath and meditating. If you don’t have any experience with meditation practices, complete a guided breathing meditation.
You can find plenty of these videos on YouTube for free. Download one and listen to it on your phone while in bed. You’ll find it helps you clear your mind and fall asleep fast. Keep the meditation and repeat it the following day before your test to calm you.
The Don’ts of Taking Lie Detector Tests
When we have a fear of the unknown, it causes us to panic. If you have an anxiety disorder, the news of having to take the lie detector test is enough to put you on edge. As you get closer to the exam date, you’ll feel these emotions of uncertainty and anxiety reach a fever pitch.
When you step into the exam room, your sympathetic nervous system will be ready to launch the FoF at the slightest indication of a threat – like the examiner asking you a question. As a result, you might end up creating an emotional and physiological state the examiner misinterprets for deception.
Don’t panic. Breathe. Remember, it’s all about preparing properly for the exam. When you have the right preparation, you won’t have a problem in the exam room, and you’ll get through the lie detector test without any issues.
Don’t Act Irrationally
The polygraph examiner is a professional. They spend up to seven years qualifying for their job. They treat you with the utmost respect during the test, and you should do the same to them. Don’t see the examiner as your enemy – they’re here to help you.
As mentioned, one of the primary roles of the examiner is to help you manage your mental state in preparation for the exam and during the process. Treating them with disrespect is uncalled for and a red flag that you might be hiding something from them.
When you enter the exam room, the examiner will greet you, and you should do the same. Adopt and friendly attitude and remain professional. You can expect them to act accordingly.
Don’t Use Anxiety Medication
It might be tempting to relieve your anxiety through the use of medication like Xanax. Xanax and beta-blockers dampen the nervous system response, reducing the feeling of dread. As a result, some people use these drugs because they believe they can help them pass the test when they lie.
However, avoid this practice if you don’t have a prescription for the medication. Using anti-anxiety drugs and beta blockers before the exam is a “countermeasure.” If the examiner discovers you’re using this medication, they’ll confront you about it.
If you don’t have a prescription and don’t inform the examiner of your physician’s recommendations before the exam, the examiner sees this as deceptive behavior. Using a countermeasure qualifies as an immediate failure of your test, so avoid it.
Don’t Use Sleep Medication
The same principle applies to sleeping medication or supplements the night before the exam. Many people find it challenging to get to sleep when they’re in a stressed state of mind. You have all kinds of thoughts and concerns running through your mind, and this overthinking might keep you awake.
However, don’t resort to using your friends, parents, or partners’ sleeping meds. Drugs like Ambien will help you fall asleep, but you’ll find you’ll wake in the morning feeling sluggish and tired. The same applies to supplements like melatonin. If you have no experience with it, it causes the same simp[toms as Ambien and sleep meds, resulting in a hazy mental state.
Additionally, using sleep meds without a prescription technically means you’re misusing prescription substances, and that could be one of the test questions in the exam room. Stay away from these sleep assistants and use the meditation strategy mentioned earlier instead.
Don’t Drink too Much Caffeine
The caffeine in coffee, tea, and energy drinks is a nervous system stimulant. It ramps up nervous system response, and drinking too much of it places the sympathetic nervous system and the FoF on red alert. As a result, you’ll feel jittery and anxious, and you’re just a question away from activating the FoF, producing a false positive on your polygraph exam.
Many people who can’t fall asleep the night before the test compensate for their dreary state the following morning by consuming caffeine. However, it’s a mistake you want to avoid. If you’re feeling tired, it’s a better idea to eat an apple. Nutritional science shows that the enzymes and nutrients in apples do as good a job at waking you up as caffeine.
Stay away from the extra coffee and stay hydrated. You’ll find the sleepiness clears in a few hours, and you won’t have to worry about your nervous system feeling on edge.
Don’t Overcomplicate Your Answers
The polygraph exam involves a series of around five questions. You’ll answer the examiner using yes-or-no answers. Don’t expand on your answers unless the examiner asks you to do so. If you start responding with a long paragraph, the examiner views this as erratic behavior.
They may assume you’re using a countermeasure or manipulation tactics to try and be deliberately deceptive. The examiner will only ask you to expand on your answer if they detect what they think might be possible deception. In this case, they’re likely to say something like, “I notice that you seem nervous when you answer this question. Do you have any idea why? Do you feel somehow responsible for this?”
Don’t Ask the Examiner for Your Results
When you finish your polygraph exam, the examiner will thank you for your time and ask you to leave the room. Don’t ask them for your results because, in most instances, they won’t have their conclusion yet. The examiner takes the test data back to their office and reviews it before making their decision.
They’ll call your employer and send a report on the exam a few days later. Your employer can’t share this report with anyone, so don’t worry about it. The examiner keeps all the data on file securely, so there’s no need to worry about it falling into other people’s hands.