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Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Truth About Lie Detectors

There is  another element to "Hittin' the sales" that I may have not mentioned yet.  Did you ever wonder what that quiet neighbor's occupation really was?  How about the family that always has their shades down? Or that saintly old couple who seem friendly, but then make that weird hip-shift when they greet you at the door so as to block your view inside the house?  You could say I am the original nosy neighbor, but you would be closer to the truth if you surmised that I am instead suffering from an over-active imagination.

However, when anyone has a sale, they are inviting you into their past, almost saying, "Hi! Feel free to look around at the flotsam and jetsam of my life, and guess what I've been up to." More often than not, you won't see anything worth repeating, or buying, but sometimes you get a surprise.

I found this at a sale in the basement of a neighbor's house (no one you know, that was 15 years ago) and it was right next to an empty hard plastic case for a Walther PPK side arm. Whoa! Who was this guy? A suburban James Bond? It's typical to find garden tools and half finished carpentry projects at these sales, but who has a leftover Lie Detector for sale?
Read More "Lies" after the Jump

Hmmmm, a lie detector and a small concealable pistol, I was too naive at the time to search for water-boarding equipment, but this guy must have likely been into some kind of interrogating...right?  Probably not, but it could make a good story. I, of course, had to buy this gadget I'd never seen before, especially after marveling at the promise of this statement in the manual.

Too intriguing, my childish exuberance and over-active imagination would not let me put it down. When would I find another Voice Stress Analyzer? Plus, it was only 2 dollars.

It was complete with microphone, telephone pick-up (a rubberized round sleeve, it wouldn't fit any phone made today), and cable.  I never found any use for it's intended purpose, but I did experiment with it, and it works...to a degree.  To call it a piece of scientific equipment, would be a lie.

I know it is overstating the obvious to say that there is a huge market based on the suspicion or mistrust of those around us. The VSA was just another one of those inventions made with the intention of assuaging that fear. The manual takes the owner through the process of setting up the unit so that the unwitting party can be asked inane questions, which enables the VSA operator to register the unit to those stress-free responses. Next, the bombshell questions can be asked, and based on the stress level detected during the response, guilt or innocence can assessed. Here is a typical exchange they recommend:

YOU: "So, uh, Bob. Would you say the blue tie I am wearing is blue. Isn't it?" (Irrelevant question)
BOB: "Yes." (Stress free response  - calibrate the VSA to "Zero")
YOU: "Did my secretary see you photocopy the Johnson account?" (Bombshell question)
BOB: "Y-Yes." (Watch the l.e.d. indicator go off-the-charts)
YOU: "With my wife? (Go for the jugular.)
BOB: "Y-Y-Yes." (Watch the color drop out of Bob's face)
YOU: "After Hours?" (Wrap up this mystery)
BOB: "You got me." (Cuff him, good job. Thank you, Voice Stress Analyzer! You saved the company millions and help me avoid a nasty divorce to-boot!)

Here is a part of the page of recommended sample questions:

I found that thousands of these units were sold in the late 70's for about $150, and one recently sold online for about $34.  They added nothing to the argument that lie detectors should be admissible in a court of law. The success of any interview is based on the quality of the interrogator, who is usually the determining factor in gaining either useful information or a confession.  Maybe having a Voice Stress Analyzer nearby would only make an interesting prop for confusing or further stressing the accused. Click here for an article on this from 1979.

I didn't write this at 2am, I swear I'm telling the truth.

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