Phrasing of question could influence polygraph test results, expert says

Phrasing of question could influence polygraph test results, expert says

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Physical changes like increased blood pressure or a faster pulse are all monitored during polygraph tests, but accoridng to one polygraph expert, it’s also on the part of the examiner to make sure they’re asking the right questions for more accuracy.

On Sunday, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax said he passed polygraph tests questioning whether his encounters with Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson were consensual.

He was asked questions along the lines of “Did you engage in non-consensual sexual activity with Vanessa Tyson?” to which he answered “No” and passed, according to a release.

Polygraph expert Dave Goldberg, who has 18 years of experience administering tests, said that while the person being examined may be telling the truth, just the phrasing has a big impact on results.

He says for cases similar to the lieutenant governor’s, he would have used more explicit wording.

“I would’ve said ‘Did you ever force yourself upon [whoever] the victim is?’, or I would’ve gone more in-depth in using other words.,” Goldberg said.

He adds that much of the planning into how the questions are asked is shaped in the pre-test interview phase, where interviewers get to know the subject better so that they can figure out the best way to form questions for perhaps more authentic responses.

“If they were used every single day and every single case, we probably would not need attorneys. We probably wouldn’t need any jurors, because it would just be an examiner coming in saying ‘Yes, he told the truth', or ‘He lied.’” Goldberg said.

As to the question of whether or not these results could be used in court, NBC12 Legal analyst Steven Benjamin released the following statement:

“Polygraph results are not admissible in court proceedings… submitting to a polygraph examination by a trusted examiner and releasing the results is a perfectly proper and routine response.”

The timing of Fairfax’s statement comes ahead of interviews that Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson each had with Gayle King.

The Lieutenant Governor reiterates that the accusations are not true in a separate statement saying:

“I passed those tests because, as I have maintained from the very beginning, I did not assault either of my accusers.”

Fairfax continues to push for an investigation into the claims, adding in the aforementioned statement the importance that the accusers be heard, and due process “in order to find justice".

Expert Dave Goldberg says polygraph tests are 98-99% reliable.

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