Leonora LaPeter reports for the St. Petersburg Times. Excerpt:
TAMPA – Here are a few of the questions that polygraph examiner Mike Alaiwat asked a 60-something woman during a lie detector test recently:
“Did you leave a razor in Mr. Jones’ bathroom?”
“Do you know who put the razor in Mr. Jones’ bathroom?
“Are you lying about the shaver?”
The woman had asked for the test because the Mr. Jones in question had accused her of leaving her razor in his shower to make another girlfriend jealous.
The woman denied the accusations but wanted proof.
She paid Alaiwat $350 for the test. She cried with relief upon learning the results, which said she was truthful, and took Alaiwat’s report to her boyfriend.
Once the purview of law enforcement officials, attorneys and employers, lie detector tests now are becoming a popular way for the public to resolve personal issues.
Polygraph examiners all report more and more calls to resolve questions of infidelity, theft, cheating on fishing or golf tournaments and just about any other fact that two people can dispute.
Did the 16-year-old throw a hard-boiled egg at his aunt’s car?
Did the employee put feces in his co-worker’s lunch container?
Did a woman have sex with her boyfriend’s best friend?
Polygraph examiners, who now number a dozen in local phone books up from two a decade ago, attribute the newfound popularity of the polygraph to its use on daytime talk shows such as Ricki Lake, Maury Povich and Sally Jessy Raphael.
Meet the Parents, a show in which parents question three prospective mates for their son or daughter while they are hooked up to a polygraph, also has produced a lot of interest in lie detector tests, examiners say.
But some question the legitimacy of using the polygraph in making decisions that can alter lives.
“I think it’s a waste of these people’s money because the results of the polygraph are unreliable,” said George W. Maschke, co-author of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector and a founder of www.antipolygraph.org “Why? Because the whole procedure has no scientific basis at all. It’s pseudoscience. The public needs to know about this, especially people making major life decisions about marriage and relationships – or, God forbid, children – based on lie detector tests.”