Polygraph tests are used extensively to address relationship issues. This is one subject area in which polygraph testing can have a deep and long-term impact: When trust is lost, a relationship can take years to recover.

In most cases that involve adultery, the evidence is not definitive. The only way to verify the truth is through a polygraph test administered by a qualified examiner.

Designing Polygraph Questions that Involve Relationships

The structure of a polygraph exam is critical for its success, especially in the area of infidelity.

First, certain words and phrases must be defined by explicit and agreed-upon definitions. Some words must not be used at all. For example, the words cheating, affair, or inappropriate cannot be used.

Questions must be constructed in a particular way. They cannot be hypothetical questions, questions about the future, or questions about opinions, emotions, intentions, or feelings. They must be simple, direct, unambiguous, yes or no questions. Questions must also be short: A question cannot take longer than seven seconds to ask.

Based on these guidelines, an example of an unacceptable question is: “Do you plan to leave your wife?” One example of an acceptable question is: “During your marriage, have you had sexual contact with anyone other than your husband?” Ironically, test questions about lying are generally not used. An example of a question about lying is: “Did you lie to your wife about having sex with someone else?”

The number of questions affects the accuracy of the test. The more questions asked during an exam, the less accurate the results will be. In fact, a test consisting of one single question produces a result with the highest accuracy. A test consisting of more than four questions is unreliable. Most exams include three or four questions.

All the questions asked during an exam must relate to the same subject. Examiners cannot mix issues in one test. For example, one exam cannot include questions about sexual problems and questions about financial problems.

Polygraph exams about relationships include the following types of tests:

Cheating or Infidelity

This type of test determines whether the subject has had sexual contact with anyone else besides his or her partner. Other related items may include questions about dating, kissing, having contact with “exes,” placing personal ads, visiting strip clubs, etc.

Personal History

This type of test is appropriate when the subject’s partner wants to verify aspects of his or her background. These aspects include the subject’s sexual history, drug or alcohol use, gambling, health issues (STDs in particular), or financial problems.

Internet Activities

Not all infidelity requires physical contact. This type of polygraph determines the extent of the subject’s sexually oriented activities conducted online. Examples include having “cyber sex” or visiting pornographic websites, online dating sites, sexually oriented chatrooms, or interactive sexual websites.


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Libby Langford (DBA Bilingual Polygraph Services) is a polygraph examiner approved by the American Polygraph Association since 2005. In addition, she is an Immigration Credibility Assessment Registered Examiner (I-CARE Registry #0015).

Libby Langford

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