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Effect of Two Types of Control Questions and Two Question Formats on the Outcomes of Polygraph Examinations

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Two major variations of polygraph “Control Question” testing, the Zone Comparison (ZoC) and the Modified General Question Test (MGQT) were evaluated. Within each, the type of control question, Exclusive or “time bar” (e.g., “Before you were 21, did you ever...”) and Nonexclusive or “no time bar”(e.g., “Did you ever….?”) was manipulated in a mock theft scenario, with 80 male and 40 female subjects randomly assigned to be either innocent or guilty. Polygraphic data collected by experienced field examiners were numerically scored by an evaluator blind to all aspects of the study. Decision accuracy was not related to the type of procedure (ZoC/MGQT) used or the subject’s sex. Accuracy was significantly related to the type of control question [χ2(2) = 11.46, p = 0.003; τc = 0.29]. Nonexclusive control questions produced greater accuracy than Exclusive control questions on both innocent and guilty subjects. These results and subjects’ self-reports support the general “theory” on which control question (CQ) testing is based. The need for better empirical support of accepted dogma and current field practices is strongly indicated by these findings.
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Keywords: comparison questions; control question testing; detection of deception; forensic science; polygraph testing; question formats

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dawn Associates LLC, 5732 S Plum Bay Pkwy, Tamarac, FL 33321.

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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