The Truth about The Moment of Truth TV Show
(One expert's opinion)
Fox’s new game show "The Moment of Truth" has now aired in the United States. While this show may be entertaining to some, the polygraph aspect of the show has no validity whatsoever. The reason we are publishing our opinion about this is so that potential clients do not develop unrealistic expectations of polygraph testing and what it can accomplish. Fox TV has intentionally blocked us from publishing this information on their public internet forum, so I am providing the information here.
Here is why the Moment of Truth polygraphs can not be relied upon:
Note: Definition of "Relevant Question" - The primary question on a polygraph exam that requires resolution. There are several other types of questions included in a polygraph exam, but they are processed differently than Relevant Questions.
Many of the relevant questions on Moment of Truth are simply opinions, not facts. Opinions can not be asked on a polygraph with any reliability. Opinions, unlike facts, all involve a small degree of uncertainty, leading to a subjective response. That uncertainty may in itself produce a significant level of false-deceptive results. If a person feels that they have, now or in the past, ever doubted the truthfulness of their answer, it will likely cause a false-deceptive reaction on the polygraph. Any results from these questions can not be relied upon.
Many of the relevant questions on Moment of Truth are about what the contestant thinks will happen in the future. If we had the technology to tell what someone was going to do in the future, there would be very little crime. These questions, like the "opinion" questions discussed above, involve a degree of uncertainty that will render any polygraph conclusion useless.
A properly-conducted polygraph has a very narrow focus, and typically includes only one or two relevant questions. The show’s web site indicates that 50 to 75 relevant polygraph questions are asked during the exam, and then they cull them down to the 21 questions they decide to use on the show. Polygraph research gives us a 90 to 95 % degree of accuracy in a single-issue exam, which can take several hours to complete. If done to current industry standards (using one relevant question per test) it would take weeks of testing to cover as many relevant questions as the show is claiming to do.
It is generally accepted in the polygraph community that polygraph results become less accurate as you add more (and varied) questions. Since no research has been done to support a multiple-question exam, there is no scientific data to empirically support the results of a multiple-question test.
Next, we have the process of TCM, or total chart minutes, which states in part that a person’s physiological reactions on a polygraph will be reduced over time to a point where the data collected is no longer useful. In other words, as you ask more questions, you get less reactions. The person being tested must exhibit some level of reaction in order to have those reactions analyzed, so if the reactions no longer exist because the person has been tested too long, the test is worthless and no conclusions can be drawn at all. This typically begins to happen after about 30 minutes of continuous testing. For this reason, a qualified examiner will not usually conduct more than 3 separate exams on a person in the same day. It should also be noted that to render a conclusion, the examinee should be asked all the test questions at least three times, so on a typical polygraph all the questions are asked 3 to 5 times with a small break between each question series..
The only way to ask a large number of relevant questions on a polygraph is to ask them all on the same test and compare them to one another. This is called a peak of tension test, and all this test does is isolate the relevant questions that cause greater concern than the others. This test is used for screening only. This test format will NOT determine truth or deception.
If the show wants to conduct accurate exams, they would first have to change the relevant questions to cover fact-based topics only (about events that did or did not take place in the past) and then they would have to set aside one full day for each 3 questions to be asked. That would require over two weeks of testing to cover just 50 questions accurately.
The basis for my opinions can be verified by contacting any accredited polygraph training school.
Due to the vague, subjective, futuristic nature, and sheer volume, of relevant questions asked on The Moment of Truth, there can be little more than chance accuracy in determining truth or deception to these questions. In other words, they could simply flip a coin and achieve the same accuracy levels.
Do not expect a qualified examiner to do what the Moment of Truth TV show does.
If you are interested in having a qualified examiner provide "real" testing for you, please click here and complete the online registration process.
If you have any questions, please contact me by email.
R. Michael Martin, President
Global Polygraph Network
Court-certified polygraph expert