Are you too honest to pass a lie detector test? If you feel guilty just thinking about doing something wrong, you might fail your polygraph. If that sounds like you, it’s useful to consider howthe test works, before you undergo one.

In a polygraph examination, between three and six sensors are attached to an examinee in order to measure his or her breathing rate, pulse, perspiration and blood pressure.

At the start of the examination, diagnostic questions determine the examinee’s baseline physical responses. At the start of the examination, the examinee is asked to lie – this establishes the baseline physical response. You can imagine what the rest of the test looks like – if you’ve ever watched a cop show.

As you can tell from this description, the polygraph isn’t actually detecting lies – there are no sensors attached to your brain. The American Psychological Association has more accurately labeled it a ‘fear detector.’ That’s just one reason it’s not accepted in a court of law.

Unlike the courts, a security clearance isn’t a right. If you’re undergoing a polygraph examination for consideration for Intelligence Community employment, keep that in mind. And don’t overthink the test. In a polygraph examination, the old phrase, ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ becomes a very true statement.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer