Published Monday, February 22, 2021
Deputies pre-approve the use
of a lie detector for hiring police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff and wire services
If the bill passes in the second round of votes, the law will allow the polygraph to be used to determine reliability traits in national security police forces.
The deputies of Congress pre-approved in the first round of votes the bill No.21.490, known as "Law to regulate the use of the polygraph."
The use of this so-called lie detector test would be applied to officers of the Border Police, the Armament Directorate, the National Coast Guard Service, the Air Surveillance Service, the Drug Control Police, the Professional Migration Police, the Intelligence Directorate and National Security and the Judicial Investigation Organization.
"Submission to this test will be voluntary and cannot be used for the dismissal of any official," independent deputy Zoila Volio said. She voted in favor of the bill.
However, deputy Paola Vega, from the current government party Partido Acción Ciudadana, opposes the bill because there is a setback in human rights, in addition to violating the basic principles of individual freedoms.
It is expected that the deputies determine the approval or rejection of the bill in the second round of voting in the coming days.
According to the American Psychological Association, APA, lie detector tests have become a popular cultural icon, from crime dramas to comedies to advertisements, the picture of a polygraph pen wildly gyrating on a moving chart is a readily recognized symbol.
But, as psychologist Leonard Saxe, Ph.D., has argued, the idea that we can detect a person's veracity by monitoring psychophysiological changes is more myth than reality. Even the term "lie detector," used to refer to polygraph testing, is a misnomer. So-called "lie detection" involves inferring deception through analysis of physiological responses to a structured, but unstandardized, series of questions.
The instrument typically used to conduct polygraph tests consists of a physiological recorder that assesses three indicators of autonomic arousal: heart rate/blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductivity.
Most examiners today use computerized recording systems. Rate and depth of respiration are measured by pneumographs wrapped around a subject's chest. Cardiovascular activity is assessed by a blood pressure cuff. Skin conductivity (called the galvanic skin or electrodermal response) is measured through electrodes attached to a subject's fingertips.
The recording instrument and questioning techniques are only used during a part of the polygraph examination. A typical examination includes a pretest phase during which the technique is explained and each test question reviewed. The pretest interview is designed to ensure that subjects understand the questions and to induce a subject's concern about being deceptive. Polygraph examinations often include a procedure called a "stimulation test," which is a demonstration of the instrument's accuracy in detecting deception. Several questioning techniques are commonly used in polygraph tests.
According to the association, an alternative polygraph procedure is called the Guilty Knowledge Test, GKT.
A GKT involves developing a multiple-choice test with items concerning knowledge that only a guilty subject could have. A test of a theft suspect might, for example, involve questions such as "Was $500, $1,000, or $5,000 stolen?" If only a guilty suspect knows the correct answer, a larger physiological reaction to a correct choice would indicate deception.
With a sufficient number of items, a psychometrically sound evaluation could be developed. The GKT is not widely employed. One limitation of the GKT is that it can be used only when investigators have information that only a guilty subject would know. The interpretation of "no deception" is also a potential limitation, since it may indicate lack of knowledge rather than innocence.
The accuracy (i.e., validity) of polygraph testing has long been controversial, the association said in its statement.
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