Posted: 20 September 2009 at 11:24am
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True Lies: Polygraph Ka Sach
Satish K Sharma21 September 2009, 12:00am IST
"Kya aapne aapke mangetar ke saath bewafai kee hai" (Have you cheated on your fiance), asked the anchor. The contestant a young lady weighed the
question for a while and then said, "Yes!" The answer was correct and she crossed one more hurdle to winning a crore, even as the fiance absorbed the shock of the unsavoury revelation. Actually, once the question had been popped, it was in her interest to tell the truth for a lie could be nailed by the polygraph machine. To be sure, the reality TV show 'Sach Ka Saamna' had its positive side. It encouraged contestants to tell the truth and the rewards were not only monetary, but also psychological and social. For airing one's dark motives, infidelities and hurts buried deep inside can take a load off one's conscience and put the relationships on firmer ground. However, the flip side is that the crucible the polygraph test on which the show relies, is far from being foolproof. The test is based on the premise that when a person tells a lie his physiological responses are different than when he speaks the truth. However, its reliability remains questionable. Various studies have put its accuracy between 80 and 95 per cent. But what is worse, in its 2003 report on the subject, the National Association of Sciences of the USA found that the majority of polygraph research was 'unreliable, unscientific and biased'.
Even the most ardent supporters of the polygraph test concede that it is possible to cheat the machine. Aldrich Ames, the CIA counterintelligence officer who was convicted for spying for Soviet Union and later Russia, passed several such tests. There are several such examples. In other words, the machine can also lie. Not because it isn't smart but because, one, different people react differently to lying and two, the physiological responses that are identified with a falsehood can also be triggered by a host of other reasons nervousness, anxiety and stress. It doesn't help that in the end the examiner's interpretation is subjective. Surfing on the Net, one comes across many personal cases in which a false polygraph test verdict ruined perfectly sound relationships. Is it a good reason to ban the show from ever returning for a second season? Certainly not, but considering that the spirit of scientific enquiry is hardly the forte of our society, no harm would be done if a cautionary warning about the limitations of the polygraph test was displayed before each episode.
Edited by sun_423 - 20 September 2009 at 11:26am