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Lie detector tests getting foothold in Russia

November 13, 2014, 16:53 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Sindeev

MOSCOW, November 13. /TASS/. Lie detectors are securing their foothold in Russia and are used increasingly in different environments though experts have no consensus on the accuracy of test results.

All autumn conscripts to serve in Strategic Missile Forces will undergo additional tests to determine whether they experience mental health problems or are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Eight thousand will be checked with the use of conventional tests or will undergo polygraph examination, Colonel Igor Yegorov from the missile forces’ headquarters told Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.

Checks are meant to expose possible harmful habits or suicidal tendencies. Tests were launched three years ago as part of the Defense Ministry program to protect military nuclear facilities and the "nuclear button." Lie detectors to expose possible corruptionists, alcoholics, drug addicts and the mentally unstable are used throughout the army, though to a lesser extent than in Strategic Missile Forces.

The first prototype of modern lie detectors was designed in 1921 by a California policeman. Since then, the device has been constantly updated. Disputes as to result authenticity continue. According to US analysts, accuracy of lie detector testing is 90-96%. There is no common stance among scientists as to how reactions fixed by lie detectors can be interpreted. Some say they mean the tested person lies while others say they just mean the matter at issue is of importance for the tested person.

First to apply polygraphs in Russia in the 1970s were security agencies — secret services, the army and law enforcement organizations. For example, as part of police reforms in 2011, psychological testing was carried out, sometimes with the use of a polygraph. It was found that almost one third of policemen were concealing important information that could affect their career prospects.

Detectors are mainly used during interrogations, of late in forensic enquiries as evidence in criminal proceedings. In court, polygraph testing is not evidence as a rule, but may be taken into account if other evidence exists. Detectors have been used extensively in a national anti-corruption campaign. Alone in the first eight months of this year, more than 600 officers of Moscow executive agencies were tested with the use of polygraphs to identify any propensity to corruption.

Devices are becoming increasingly fashionable among employers. Many Russian companies can do without such tests no longer. Two kinds of testing are popular in business: internal investigation and screening of candidates to reveal people with hidden criminal records, fake diplomas or drug dependence.

Tests cost on average between $80 and $120, the price varying according to the position being applied for. Polygraphs have even made their way into the delicate sphere of private life, often initiated by those suspecting a partner of cheating and often having the final say on partner's fidelity.

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