The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Like many folks I’ve wondered about the reliability of polygraph examinations, or as they’re more commonly known—lie detector tests.
In fact, when I was involved with the Kenora Bass International fishing tournament I was a keen proponent of having one or two anglers selected at random and tested each day, along with the members of the final winning team
After all, if people rob grocery stores and murder innocent staff for the loose change in the cash register, heaven only knows what some might do to win the tens of thousands of dollars offered up in today’s high profile cast-for-cash sporting events. Hide fish in cages. Use live bait. Transfer fish from one boat to another. You name it.
Still, though, in the back of my mind, I always reckoned that if one kept one’s cool one could pass a polygraph test easily and no one would be the wiser. Boy, was I wrong.
Stepping off the stage after weighing in our fish at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship last Friday afternoon (July 23), I was greeted by a smiling tournament official wearing a red shirt who advised me that I was one of the two lucky recipients that day to take the polygraph test. Aha, I thought, now I’ll be able to evaluate firsthand whether or not these things really work.
I was whisked away to a quiet room at the Rendez-Vous Motel where I met Lorne Huff. Lorne is a retired RCMP officer with an extensive background in administering polygraph tests. The first thing he did was put me at ease.
He began by telling me that I would know in advance every one of the nine questions that he was going to ask. What, no surprise Perry Mason-type grilling? I found that strange.
Lorne, then, asked me a series of pre-exam questions about where and when I was born. He followed up with a series of medical questions. Did I have high blood pressure? Suffer from any allergies or asthma? Then he wanted to know when I had eaten last? What time had I gone to bed the night before? And how well I had slept? I laughed and told him I usually toss and turn the night before a big fishing event.
Then he explained how he would administer the examination. I would take the seat beside the polygraph machine, rest my arms on the chair and keep my feet flat on the floor.
Then he would connect metal tabs to the second and third fingertips on my left hand. He said I’d feel a throbbing sensation. Next, he would wrap a blood pressure strap around my right arm and inflate it.
He told me not to worry if my fingers felt numb. He advised me that he would also place two straps around my chest—one above my heart and one below it.
Finally, he told me to answer each question with a simple “yes” or “no” reply. And I wasn’t to nod my head or move my body.
Then Lorne proceeded to tell me each of the questions he was going to ask me and he wanted to know how I was going to reply. The first ones were simple. Was my name Gordon? Was I presently in Fort Frances? Had I been born in Toronto? The next set of questions was trickier. Had I ever in my life cheated? Had I ever told a significant lie?
“Of course, I had,” I responded. Whether in elementary school looking at a classmate’s answer to a test or passing notes back and forth. I can only think of one person who might have been able to answer “no” to those questions.
That is when Lorne surprised me by saying that he wanted me to answer “no” to those questions when I was hooked up to the machine. Was I hearing him correctly? He wanted me to intentionally lie?
“Yes,” he said. “That is precisely what I want you do.”
Then Lorne told me the tournament-related questions that he would shortly ask me and he directed me to answer them truthfully. For example: had my tournament partner and I fairly caught all the fish we weighed in? Had we obeyed all of the tournament rules? Had we used any prohibited live bait? Had anyone passed fish to us from another boat?
Now that I knew the questions and Lorne knew my answers . . . including the ones he had instructed me to lie about . . . it was time for him to connect me to the polygraph machine.
Once wired up, with my feet on the floor and my eyes closed, Lorne asked me the questions once again. Each time I replied I could hear him scribbling notes on the paper printout.
Was my name, Gordon? Yes. Was I in Fort Frances? Yes. Had I ever cheated? No. Had I ever told a significant lie? No. Had I obeyed all the tournament rules? Yes.
After spending 10 hours on the water, tired and hungry, I was almost comatose. In fact, while Lorne was asking me the questions in the quiet air-conditioned room, I thought I was going to fall asleep and not register a thing. Flat line the whole thing.
But it wasn’t the case.
Lorne completed asking the questions and told me to open my eyes. He unhooked the wires, I smiled and asked him how I did? When he showed me the printout and I was amazed.
“You just about went off the chart when you answered the questions that I told you to lie about,” he said, pointing to the mountainous peaks on the graph. “And you passed all the tournament questions with flying colours. So have a great day.”
I did just that, but not without a healthy new respect for the power of the polygraph test.

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