Importance of gaining Rapport during a Polygraph Test
Its very important for a skilled polygraph examiner to gain a good rapport with his clients, this article discusses the reasons why, Lie Detectors UK employ fully qualified APA examiners who have been trained in the importance of gaining rapport with clients.
One purpose of polygraph testing is to obtain a complete, truthful, and accurate account of what happened through interview, as well as specific information about the event being investigated. Rapport is an essential element to achieve this goal. In the course of an interview, rapport must fulfil its primary objective: to favour good communication between sender and receiver of information, that is to say, between polygrapher and interviewee.
To date, there are many known tactics to establish rapport, such as treating the interviewee with respect or explaining the full procedure. This text intends to illustrate the alternative use of the technique devil ́s advocate. Regularly, this technique is used to evaluate the strength and veracity of a testimony or authentic beliefs individuals have about something.
What is Rapport?
Over the years, the term rapport has been given to a person’s ability to identify with someone and share their feelings, traditions, tastes, interests, customs, beliefs, ideals, and values at a given time. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, 2016), rapport “is a state of sympathy that allows influence or communication”. In general terms, it is the environment generated between two people and all the elements that can influence the development of their interactions and can be established in different ways. In the case of an interview, rapport must be maintained and remain until the end of the encounter. The establishment of rapport makes it possible to influence behaviour and thus persuade other human beings to make decisions. In criminal investigations, it is useful because in conducting investigative interviews or polygraph evaluations, it helps generate confidence in the interviewee with the purpose of obtaining quality information that allows the resolution of a crime.
How Rapport is generated
Morgan & Cogger (1982) suggest that an affectionate greeting, a firm hand- shake, and a proper presentation of self will help to establish rapport. However, the reality is that not all interviewees are cooperative, sometimes the interviewer will face interviewees with a hostile and uncooperative attitude. In this scenario, the interviewer should not be affected by their performance, and as Acevedo (2007) mentions, “the first minutes of the interview are decisive to achieve success,” so decisions must be made.
To generate rapport, we must consider the basic needs of the interviewee, for ex- ample, we should explain the ground rules like what they can do inside the interview room, or their right to have basic needs such as going to the toilet or access to clean drinking water. Boyle and Vullierme (2019) suggest the following:
- a) Identify yourself and explain what the roles will be during the interview.
- b) Explain the motive of the interview clearly and precisely.
- c) Explain how and what the interview will consist of.
- d) Explain their rights.
- e) Instruct the interviewee that they can ask any questions in case of doubts, or in case they need anything (going to the toilet, drinking water).
This should be done in a clear, understand- able, open, and respectful way.
Other tactics to consider are the following:
- a) Decrease the tension in the person being evaluated. This can be achieved through trivial questions such as: How ́s your day going? How do you feel today? What do you think of the climate? Did you have trouble getting here? and so forth.
- b) Empathy: Let them know that the interview procedure can cause stress or nervousness, and that this condition is normal. For example: I under- stand that you feel nervous about being here because it’s something unknown to you, but don’t worry, when it’s your first time doing some- thing, we can feel anxiety, but as we talk you will see that this feeling dissipates. If during the exam you have any doubt about the process or the questions, let me know so that I can clarify immediately.
- c) Interview rules: Indicate the stages of the interview in a clear and precise way. Emphasise mutual respect.
- d) Fluid communication: This should be generated from the first moment through the application of open questions to reduce monosyllabic answers like “yes” or “no.”
- e) Authority: It must be made clear to the interviewee that we understand
his/her situation, however, he/she must also recognise that authority is solely and exclusively held by the interviewer, in order to avoid problems during the interview.
- f) Role: The interviewer must adjust their approach to the mental and emotional ability of the examinee, for example, if the interviewee has an intellectual disability, then the interviewer must avoid technical words, so that they can be understood by the examinee.
Once the above actions have been carried out, it is necessary to identify if rapport has been successfully established. An easy and effective way to do this is through the observation of non-verbal language in a mirroring way, that is, if the interviewer and interviewee match their movements, gestures, tone of voice, and attitudes in a similar way, this means that a good communication has been established and understanding was procured among the participants.
Textually, this concept refers to a person who defends a position directly or indirectly, as a lawyer may do in a court in defence of their client. Technically, it is the verbal expression of a person with the aim of a message to provoke a debate or test the opposed arguments versed by another person. In this sense, the concept has been applied to the field of identifying a true or deceptive judgement, when the theme is conceptual and not perceptual. These last concepts are intimately related. Both terms refer to cognitive processes that allow us to understand how we perceive reality from an event, and how that event is transformed into experience according to the sensations and perceptions that develop conceptions (conceived ideas) or ideas of thought, “realities subject to experience,” with prejudices, inferences, and biases. Thus, this tactical element makes it possible to evaluate the strength of a judgement, because the latter is a concept attributed to a mental process of the subject according to an idea conceived through the experience and interests of the person, and therefore could not be used to evaluate credibility in police interviews with suspects, because in these scenarios, conceptual truthfulness is not important. In fact, the objective is to examine the lack of veracity about the transgressions of the law which suggests the evaluation of acts and not of thoughts (Leal, Vrij, Mann & Fisher, 2010).
The described tactic above could be exemplified as follows: person one arrives at a meeting with co-worker’s, in place they observe that there is a group of people talking, including the general manager of the company for whom they work and other directors, a scenario that makes them think that it is a good opportunity to express innovative ideas to implement in their work, then secondarily standing out and get a salary increase or to improve their position in the company. When approaching the group, they hear that co- workers are talking about politics, and the candidate will have to make a comment against their own interests to observe the determination and strength of the beliefs and opinions of the group to identify their true political affiliation (Ex. I think the president has done well at his job), and perhaps some members of the group will have a different opinion. Acting this way, subject one will know with this tactic who can be allies without having revealed their political preferences. In this same sense, this technique will serve to develop rapport because it will help to identify related themes and political positions, and therefore will facilitate the communication process that will result in obtaining more objective information.
While this tactic is not useful in a police setting interview to identify truth or deceit, it could be used to generate rapport with interviewees, whether they are witnesses, victims, or suspects, and it could be used in a polygraph test with the same objectives.
Creating Rapport and Trust in Lie Detection / Polygraph Tests
The physiological responses detected by the polygraph are a reflection of the examinees’ emotions concerning the questions as well as their feelings toward the test situation and its surroundings. Regardless of innocence or guilt, examinees share a wide range of negative feelings such as: humiliation (“It’s a test for criminals”), insult (“After so many years they still doubt my honesty?”), resentment (“A machine will determine my integrity”), shame (“They all believe that I did it”), loss of control (“It’s not in my hands but in the hands of the machine), invasion (“You are penetrating my soul”), fear of consequences (“My future is determined by a machine”), fear of unknown (“It’s my first time and it seems like an electrical chair”). In addition to these negative feelings, examinees experience test anxiety where the anxiousness about doing well becomes self-consciousness and self-doubt and causes autonomic nervous system changes (physical, emotional, behavioural and cognitive). The primary “threat” in this situation is the possibility of failure, which fuels the anxiety. Test anxiety can create a vicious circle: the more the person focuses on the bad outcome, the stronger the feeling of anxiety becomes, up to the point of failing the test.
Truthful examinees experience an additional concern that the inaccuracy of the polygraph will work against them to the point of failing the test (“Fear of Error”). Although there is no supporting research, in theory the fear of error can push a truthful examinee to the edge of failure. False positives and inconclusive statistics may give us some clues, yet it is clear that the fear of error cannot be blamed for all the false positives outcomes. Regardless of the extent, there is no doubt that the fear of error has a damaging effect on polygraph charts’ clarity due to the examinees’ nervousness and anxiousness that produce erratic and “noisy” charts.
Rapport and Trust
While truthful examinees fear that the inaccuracy of the polygraph will work against them, deceptive examinees hope that it will work for them. That is why examiners should convince the examinees of the: “… technique’s accuracy and… the examiner’s competence,” by a “… thorough description of the test procedure, an explanation of the instrumentation, and an image created by the examiner of competence, objectivity, and trustworthiness.” Achieving these goals reduces truthful examinees’ anxiety and increases deceptive examinees’ fear of detection, which subsequently will result in clear and significant charts. In order to accomplish these objectives the examiner should establish rapport and trust with the examinees.
While we all know how it feels, creating rapport and trust are a bit elusive and vague. Rapport can be defined as a feeling of connection, trust or simply a feeling that you are being understood. In order to achieve it we should tell examinees something of ourselves, talk “eye level” while using their level of language and “wrap” it all in the proper examination room setting. In addition to being genuine, frank, and empathetic, there are additional measures that the examiner should take in order to fully achieve rapport and trust:
The examinee should be advised about the test (place, time, issues, and examiner) at least a day prior to the test in order to absorb, consult and “digest” the idea.
The examinee shouldn’t be investigated on the same day as the polygraph examination.
Have in the waiting area a short yet detailed explanatory leaflet containing information such as: How does the polygraph works, does the test has an effect on the examinee’s health, can unhealthy people take the test, does anxiousness and nervousness affect the results, the test procedure, accuracy of the polygraph, about the examiner and the organization and most important, the legal status and a statement that the test is totally voluntary. Emphasize the fact that the examiner and not the instrument determines the outcome of the test.
Have your organization’s as well as the APA’s code of ethics framed and placed in a noticeable spot in the waiting area.
The examination room should be small (9×9), quiet, air conditioned, sparsely furnished with no distractions such as: telephone, pictures, examinee’s seat facing an open window and alike.
Examiner should not be overly or poorly dressed (adjust yourself to the examinee’s attire).
Once you have introduced yourself, ask the examinee ifs/he is as nervous and anxious, as you were when you first took the test. Discuss it and assure the examinee that it will not have any influence on the outcome.
Ask the examinee ifs/he has read the information leaflet and ifs/he has any questions and/or needs extra clarifications. The mere surfacing and discussion of the examinee’s concern and anxiousness act as a tranquilizer and reduces the examinee’s tension.
Clarify that the test is voluntary and ifs/he wishes she/he can walk away whenever s/he feels. This statement conveys the examiner’s objectivity (in over thousands of examinations only two have walked out on me after this statement).
Between question phrasing and signing the consent form, reinforce the voluntary statement.
Administer an acquaintance test to demonstrate the test procedure as well as demonstrate her/his body “transparency.” It will reassure the truthful and stimulate the deceptive examinee.
Ask the examinee between charts how’s/he feels and ifs/he wishes to continue.
A word of caution: Do not get overly friendly to avoid the “friendly examiner” effect where the examinee may lose the fear of detection and consequences, which may reduce her/his responses.
A major contributor to a successful polygraph test is the quality of the interpersonal communication between the examinee and the examiner. Interpersonal communication is an exchange of messages between two individuals which include: talking, listening, persuading, nonverbal communication, and more. In spite of Wiio’s claim that: “If communication can fail, it will” or “There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message,” my experience taught me that a properly constructed pretest based on the above mentioned principles will result in a productive interpersonal communication which is based on rapport and trust.
1 Reid J.E., Inbau F.E (1977). Truth and Deception, The Williams & Wilkins Co., Baltimore, pp.216 – 217.
2 Abram s , S., A, (1977). PolygraphHandbookforAttomeys, Lexington Books, Lexington, MA. p. 61.
3 Osmo Wiio, (1978). Wiio’s Laws–and Some Others, Welin-Goos, Espoo, Finland.
As we have noticed, there are various tactics to generate rapport. The use of employing a statement against one’s own interests has two positive effects within an interview process, the first is that it allows assessing the strength and conviction of a belief or manifestation, and the other is a strategy to identify allies can serve to create a good conversation and therefore, rapport, an essential element for good communication and the application of different models of existing investigative interviews, such as the PEACE Model of Investigative Interviewing.