The British Polygraph Society
Standards of Practice
The aim of the BPS is to provide humanity with an accurate and reliable method to authenticate the truth of any matter affirmed by:
1. Serving the cause of truth in an honest, objective and fair manner to everyone.
2. Inspiring and supporting research, education and training for the benefit of members associated with the BPS and those who support its aims; together with the provision of a forum for presenting and sharing data acquired from such research, education and training.
3. Establishing and implementing standards for the admission of members as well as for ongoing membership in the BPS.
4. Controlling the conduct of examiners of the BPS by ensuring they adhere to the stipulated Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
Statement of Purpose
A polygraph examination, correctly executed by a highly trained and proficient polygraph examiner using authentic testing and analysis protocol is the most definitive scientific method known for establishing whether a subject had been honest.
To enable promotion of the maximum scale of accuracy BPS, based on the Standards of the American Polygraph Association (APA), constituted the Standards of Practice outlined below.
Furthermore, all examinations must be conducted in compliance with governing local, state, federal regulations and laws.
1. “Standards”: The generally accepted principles for preparing, conducting, analysing, documenting and reporting of polygraph examinations. Standards are compulsory.
2. “Guidelines”: Recommended practices for the preparing, conducting, analysing, documentating and reporting of polygraph examinations. Guidelines convey recognised best practices, are recommended but are not mandatory or enforceable by the APA and the BPS.
3. “Polygraph examination”: A psychophysiological detection of deception interview and testing process comprising all activities arising between a polygraph examiner and a subject in the course of a series of interactions including a pretest interview as apposite, recording of physiological data, the test data analysis and delivering a qualified opinion. There is nothing in these standards of practice that is intended to obstruct admission of confessions, or other data derived from a ploygraph examination, as evidence.
4. “Evidential Examination”: A polygraph examination whereby the parties agree, verbally and in writing, that the diagnostic opinion provided is to be used as evidence in pending legal proceedings.
5. “Paired Testing Examination”: Polygraph examinations administered simultaneously on 2 or more subjects relative to one key challenged fact to which all participants must be aware of the truth. Paired-testing is entered into voluntarily by subjects to resolve disputed facts.
6. “Investigative Examination”: A polygraph examination which is supplemental to and/or used to assist an investigation; and one the examiner is not aware or doesn’t logically believe that the examination results will be submitted as evidence in a legal proceeding.
7. “Diagnostic examination”: An event-specific evidential or investigative polygraph examination executed to help determine the credibilty of a subject relating to their awareness or involvement in a reported event or accusation. Diagnostic examinations may deal with one or multiple aspects of an event whereby the examination questions are intended to describe different roles or levels of involvement.
8. “Screening examination”: A polygraph examination administered without a report or allegation; to investigate whether or not a subject is withholding information relating to the practice of certain behaviour, comprising pertinent questions which cover specific time periods. One or several types of behaviour may be investigated in a Screening examination.
9. “APA”- shall mean the American Polygraph Association
10. “Organisation”- shall mean the British Polygraph Society or any successor thereto. In these Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics Organisation is referred to as “BPS/We/Our/Us”
11. “Test Data Analysis”: Test data analysis in polygraph refers to any structured method, whether manual or automated, for evaluating and interpreting the recorded physiological data into categorical test decisions regarding the subject’s honesty or hidden knowledge.
Decisions for diagnostic and screening examinations include:
1. Diagnostic Opinion: A qualified opinion based on the results of a polygraph technique that meets the criterion validity requirements for evidential testing or paired testing. The results of deception tests are normally reported using the terms ‘Deception Indicated’ (DI), ‘No Deception Indicated’ (NDI), ‘Inconclusive’ (INC) and ‘No Opinion’ (NO).
2. Test results of recognition tests are normally reported using the terms ‘Recognition Indicated’ (RI), ‘No Recognition Indicated’(NRI), or ‘No Opinion’ (NO).
3. Screening Opinion: A qualified opinion based on the results of a polygraph technique that meets the requirements for screening purposes, normally reported using the terms ‘Significant Response’ (SR), ‘No Significant Response’ (NSR), ‘Inconclusive’ (INC) or ‘No Opinion’ (NO).
1. A polygraph examiner must meet the requisite education and training applicable to his/her membership category as outlined in this document.
2. Polygraph examinations of alleged or convicted sex offenders, undertaking such tests as a condition of treatment, parole or probation, will be administered by members who have completed specialist training consistent with standards defined in section “Standards for Post-Conviction Sex Offender Testing (PCSOT)”
3. A polygraph examiner must be in compliance with all state continuing education obligations, if applicable.
4. Practicing examiners must complete at least 30 continuing education hours every 2 years in coursework relative to the polygraph field.
5. A practicing examiner shall be defined as any member of the BPS who has administered polygraph training, quality assurance or examinations in the previous 2 years.
6. Examiners are required to maintain documented records to verify they have met the continuing education obligations.
7. Polygraph examiners administering PCSOT examinations will have completed a minimum of 15 out of 30 hours of their compulsory continuing education, specific to matters related to dealing with the testing, treatment or supervision of sex offenders.
1. The examiner shall make proper and sensible efforts to ascertain that the subject is a fit for testing. Basic questions about the psychological and medical condition of the subject, including recent drug useage must be asked if the law permits.
2. The physical, mental and medical health of the subject that the examiner observes or should logically know must be taken into consideration when administering and evaluating the test.
3. In the course of the pretest interview, if permitted by law, the examiner must specifically ask whether the subject is currently consulting with a psychiatrist or psychologist or receiving any form of medical treatment; or whether the subject has done so in the past.
4. Should an examiner have reasonable doubt as to capacity of the subject to safely participate in the test, a release from the subject and his/her physician is necessary.
Instrumentation and Recording
1. Polygraph examinations must be conducted with instruments that record with, at the very least, the following physiological data:
1. Breathing patterns recorded by spirograph (pneumograph) components. Thoracic and abdominal patterns should be recorded separately, using two pneumograph components.
2. EDR (Electrodermal) activity reflecting relative changes in the conductance or resistance of current by the epidermal tissue.
3. Cardiovascular activity including changes in relative blood pressure, pulse rate and pulse amplitude.
4. A motion sensor is required for all examinations.
5. Whilst other physiological information may also be recorded during the test, it cannot be utilised to define decisions of honesty or deception unless verified in replicated and published research.
6. Physiological recordings during each test shall be continuous, and of ample magnitude to be easily legible by the examiner and any reviewing examiner.
Pneumograph and cardiograph tracings between one-half inch and one inch in amplitude, at the time of data collection, will be considered of sufficient size to be easily legible.
7. The polygraph instrument will be tested for calibration or functionality in conformity with manufacturer recommendations and in compliance with state and federal law.
8. In the absence of manufacturer’s recommendations, examiners should bi-annually record a chart demonstrating that the instrument is working correctly.
9. A functionality or calibration test must be carried out prior to and on the day of all evidential tests and paired testing examinations.
Test Location and Conditions
1. Conditions under which testing takes place should be free from distractions.
2. Examiners executing polygraph examinations in public view are prohibited from giving opinions regarding the honesty of the subjects on the basis of that test.
3. Examiners should make sure that reenactments of polygraph tests are transparently made known to viewers. If the examiner learns that such audience has not been informed of the reenactment, the examiner must notify the BPS immediately.
Preparation – Pretest Practices
Before the test, the examiner must allow adequate time to identify issues and possible problems in any area of testing.
1. The examiner must glean sufficient data to identify the subject.
2. The examiner must acquire consent from the subject before testing. It is recommended the consent of the subject is acquired when there is an adequate understanding of the polygraph examination process, including the duration of the test, matters to be discussed and the instruments to be utilised.
3. Adequate time must be allowed during the pretest interview to ensure that the subject has an adequate comprehension of the polygraph process and what will be required for cooperation.
4. Sufficient time must be allowed for discussing the issues to be examined and to allow the subject to fully elaborate on his/her responses to questions.
5. Sufficient time must be allocated to appraise the subject of the questions, and ensure that he/she fully understands them. Attempts by the subject to elucidate should be negated by a pretest discussion. At this stage the subject shows an understanding that the examination questions have the same definition as understood by the examiner.
6. Questions will be asked in a form that would prevent a reasonable person, facing a significant issue, from successfully engaging in a justification process.
7. The examiner will not demonstrate or articulate any bias relating to the integrity of the subject before the test is complete.
1. A polygraph examiner will utilise a testing technique which is verified.
2. A testing technique will be considered valid if supported by research carried out in accordance with the BPS & APA’s research standards.
3. Upon request for a minimum of 5 years from publication, researchers of polygraph techniques shall provide reasonable access to validation data for critical review.
4. Where examinations deviate from the protocols of a validated testing technique the deviations should be noted and justified in writing.
5. Polygraph techniques for evidential examinations will be those for which there exists at least two published empirical studies, original and replicated, demonstrating an unweighted average accuracy rate of 90% or greater, excluding inconclusives, which shall not exceed 20%.
6. Polygraph techniques for paired testing will be those for which there exists at least two published empirical studies, original and replicated, demonstrating an unweighted average accuracy rate of 86% or greater, excluding inconclusives, which shall not exceed 20%.
7. Polygraph techniques for investigative testing shall be those for which there exists at least two published empirical studies, original and replicated, demonstrating an unweighted average accuracy rate of 80% or greater, excluding inconclusives, which shall not exceed 20%.
8. Polygraph techniques used for screening purposes shall be those for which there exists at least two published empirical studies, original and replicated, demonstrating an unweighted accuracy rate that is significantly greater than chance, and should be used in a “successive hurdles” approach which entails additional testing with validated methods when the screening test is not favorably resolved.
9. Nothing in these standards of practice shall be construed as preventing examiners and researchers from investigating and developing improved methods.
10. Polygraph techniques that do not meet these standards for validation will be considered experimental methods.
11. Field examiners who employ experimental techniques shall be in compliance with applicable law related to human subject research and should inform the subject and the party requesting the examination of the use of an experimental technique. Results from experimental techniques used in field settings shall not be used in isolation to render diagnostic or screening decisions.
12. Nothing in these standards of practice shall be construed as prohibiting the use of other supportive methodologies that do not meet the requirements of these standards. However, non-validated techniques shall not be used in isolation to render screening or diagnostic decisions.
13. Each examiner shall conduct an acquaintance test for all evidential, paired-testing, initial community safety and initial investigative examinations.
14. Questions shall be asked with transparency disparateness.
15. Questions used in the assessment of honesty and deception must be asked a minimum of 20 seconds apart.
16. When validated and replicated research supports the use of another time interval, that time interval will be acceptable.
17. Standardized chart markings, recognized and utilized within the polygraph profession shall be employed.
18. An audio and video recording of the pretest and in-test phases will be made and maintained as part of the examination file, compliant with regulation and legislation, and for a minimum of one year, for all evidential and paired-testing examinations.
19. Audio and video recording should be used for community safety examinations.
20. A polygraph examiner must not execute more than 4 diagnostic or 3 evidential tests in 24 hours, and no more than 5 examinations of any type within 24 hours.
21. In extraordinary circumstances, this obligation may necessitate a waiver.
1. Examiner conclusions and opinions shall be based on validated scoring methods and decision rules.
2. Examiner notes of the test evaluation shall have sufficient transparency and precision to allow other examiners to read them.
3. Examiners shall not reveal the results of the test until the analysis has been completed.
4. Examiners are obliged to maintain the confidentiality of their work conducted under privilege until a release by the client is obtained.
5. An examiner subject to a quality control evaluation of a case shall fully disclose all relevant information regarding the case under review.
6. Examiners administering polygraph tests should submit to a quality control review of their work product at least once a year.
The submitted examination should be recorded in its entirety unless precluded by law or government policy, or it should be witnessed in its entirety by the reviewing examiner.
Standards for Post-Conviction Sex Offender Testing (PCSOT)
1. PCSOT examiners shall satisfy the provisions set forth in the Standards of Practice as well as the following mandatory standards:
1. Minimum Training:
1. A minimum of 40 hours of specialised tuition, beyond the basic polygraph training course requirements, through PCSOT training approved by the BPS
2. In the event an examiner attends and successfully completes the advanced training prior to completing 200 polygraph examinations, the examiner shall participate in an internship program comprising at least 10 PCSOT examinations, under the supervision of a recognised PCSOT examiner.
3. Upon successful completion of testing mentioned above, the examiner will receive a certificate reflecting satisfactory completion of training requirements.
2. Written Examination:
1. Passing a final written examination, approved by the BPS or its designated representative shall occur before receipt of the training certificate mentioned above.
2. The written examinations shall be properly controlled and protected to prevent exposure of the test questions or answers to any unauthorised persons.
3. Recording Requirements:
1. All PCSOT polygraph examinations submitted for quality control shall be audio/visually recorded in their entirety.
2. When required for quality control purposes, these recordings shall be made available.
3. All recorded physiological data shall be retained as part of the examination file as long as required by regulation or law, but for a minimum of one year when not in conflict with regulation or law.
4. Conflict of Interest:
1. PCSOT examiners who are therapists/treatment providers shall not conduct polygraph examinations on an individual that they directly or indirectly treat or supervise.
2. PCSOT examiners who are probation or parole officers shall not conduct a polygraph examination on any individual that they directly or indirectly supervise.