Volume 91, Issue 87

Friday, March 13, 1998

Bottoms up


Detecting liars at work

By Becky Somerville
Gazette Staff

The future success of fibbers may be hindered with the development of a new and improved lie-detector test which could light some pants on fire.

Queen's psychologist Ronald Holden has created the Holden Applicant Reliability Measurement Inventory as a means of detecting potentially untruthful job applicants. The device is planned to be used as part of the screening process in conjunction with letters of reference and résumés, Holden said.

The test, which focuses on employee counter-productivity, could be the demise of other methods of lie-detection such as the polygraph, due to legal implications which prevent it from being used for employment purposes.

"HARM Inventory is better than what is currently being used," Holden said. There is, however, always a propensity that those being tested may evade the system as the test is between 65 and 85 per cent accurate, he added.

Western psychology instructor Rae Gilchrist said a problem with the current polygraph is some people can actually influence the accuracy of it by distracting themselves and thinking about something other than what they are being asked.

HARM Inventory, however, relies on a different factor. Applicants respond on a keyboard to a series of questions appearing on a computer screen and depending on their response time it is determined whether or not they are lying.

"A liar will take relatively longer to admit something negative about themselves," Holden added.

The computerized questionnaire examines employee-related behaviours such as absenteeism, punctuality, substance abuse, dishonesty and stress intolerance, Holden said.

While Holden deems his HARM Inventory a revolutionary development in lie-detection, others consider this test as being blatantly intrusive when it comes to screening job applicants.

"It's pretty far reaching," said Sharon Lee, coordinator of Employment Services at the Student Development Centre. "I don't think it's necessary for most job situations unless someone's applying for the Secret Service or something."

The test may benefit employers who have critical time and cost factors to consider and new graduates will likely have to comply because of high demands for employment, Lee said.

Holden intends to publish HARM Inventory within two years and in the meantime intends to do some field trials within large organizations.

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