There’s a big business offering polygraph testing for infidelity but is it a reliable way of telling your spouse is cheating or a complete waste of money?
The polygraph test is controversial. There is no physiological reaction for lying so the device can easily trigger false positives to infidelity or clear someone who is, in fact, lying. While the results themselves are not guaranteed there are still potential benefits to using it.
So can it help save your marriage or is it a waste of money?
How Accurate is a Polygraph Lie Detector Test?
In short: They’re not. If you believe entirely in one you’re throwing your money and marriage out of the window (but they do have their use which we’ll get to in a moment).
Despite what you’ll see on Hollywood movies or reality TV the polygraph test is not the reliable answer that TV has made it out to be. The research has proven time and time again that they’re entirely based on theory and not fact.
The theory is they ask a few basic (or ‘control’) questions to get a basic reading on your stress levels and then when they ask the real questions (such as ‘did you cheat on your wife?’) your lies would cause your stress levels in your voice to stand out and reveal your lies.
The problem is this was all theory and has been disproved time and time again. It makes for a great plot device in a TV show but it has no complete basis in reality and the only people telling you otherwise are the ones selling polygraph readings.
They cannot actually tell you whether or not someone is telling the truth. They cannot tell you whether or not your spouse is cheating on you.
It’s pretty hard for me not to call some of these services out as a complete scam. The claims they make are based on theory, not on fact.
But they might still have their use (and we’ll get to that in a moment). If you want something that can really help your marriage out, take a moment to complete the marriage assessment quiz.
Polygraph for Infidelity on Daytime TV
I know you’ve seen couples take polygraph tests on TV and the results are hailed like they actually mean something. Daytime TV shows flaunt these things like they’re going out of style.
I’ve received more than a few emails linking to various YouTube clips of these tests proving something but, in the kindest way I can possibly put this, you’d only be fooling yourself. If either your spouse or the man/woman Google the polygraph test they’ll know exactly how useless it really is.
Don’t let daytime TV shows dictate your marriage.
I genuinely cringe when I hear things like the statement in this video. This kind of blind belief in something which has no basis, in reality, could destroy a marriage that might otherwise have been saved.
How Much is a Lie Detector Test?
There are a lot of companies offering polygraph tests for infidelity at very inflated prices. Many of them with bogus claims without any reliable research behind them.
You might find local polygraph tests vary but I’m seeing services advertised at around $300-600. I’d be very hard-pressed to say it’s worth that kind of rate if I’m honest.
Why a Polygraph Might Still Help With Infidelity
Despite what I’ve said about them – they might still be useful to you.
While they’re as accurate as flipping a coin they might work because your spouse expects them to work. The idea of a lie detector drawing squiggly lines on a piece of paper is such a part of our ‘common knowledge’ that if they don’t actually Google how accurate they are, they might just confess to an affair because they expect the polygraph to uncover it anyway.
I wrote a guide on husbands denying cheating despite evidence and sometimes they lie because they don’t see another way out. They might even be lying while hoping you have a way to make them tell the truth and perhaps strapping them up to a polygraph gives them all the excuse they need to finally break.
Perhaps, even the threat of a polygraph will be enough.
I know this isn’t a logical choice but if they’re backed into a corner and lying it isn’t logic calling the shots. It’s emotion and their survival instinct kicking in. While I genuinely believe the polygraph services are a complete scam if your spouse is in this position then the threat of it working might be all it takes.
Why it Might Backfire
As I said before, all it takes is a single Google search and your spouse is going to know the test is entirely unreliable. If he’s determined to lie about the infidelity and knows these tests are inaccurate then there are two ways this can go.
- He knows the test isn’t accurate and therefore isn’t worried at all. They pass and you’ve handed him an easy fallback to continue lying.
- If they do fail the test all they have to do is Google the polygraph and the results will tell him it’s inaccurate so they don’t have to count it as evidence.
The polygraph is only going to work if they either haven’t heard of Google (unlikely) or they already want to tell you the truth on some level.
Would I Suggest Using One?
I think there are a lot of companies out there trying to get your money by convincing you there’s some merit to using one. I think if your spouse wants to tell you on some level then an infidelity polygraph might give him the excuse they need to tell the truth.
I certainly don’t think it’s the only way, the best way or that they’re worth the price tag of hundreds of dollars. I’ve covered plenty of other tools you can use to stop him cheating but if you’re really determined to try a polygraph there are free apps for your phone which might work just as well.
I don’t mean the app will genuinely detect him lying but they’re as accurate as the expensive ones which don’t work either. Keep in mind what I said about how it can backfire but if you genuinely want to try this then maybe start with one of the apps and see what happens.