Attitudinal Consequences of the Preemployment Polygraph Examination1


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    This research was funded, in part, by a University of California Patent Fund grant. I thank Teresa Camacho, Bruce Freed, Michael Garafano, Patricia Myers, and Toni Newman for their assistance in data collection and analysis, and Margaret Lopez of Central Coast Polygraph Associates for her technical assistance. I also thank Craig Haney, Dane Archer, Tom Pettigrew, and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Lawrence T. White, Department of Psychology, Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin 53511.


An important factor concerning the use of the polygraph in employment settings has been overlooked: How does the polygraph experience affect a new employee's work-related attitudes? In two experiments, subjects were exposed to different hiring scenarios-one included a polygraph examination, the other did not—and then responded to a questionnaire of work-related attitudes. Results indicated that preemployment polygraph examinations may induce negative work-related attitudes. These findings suggest that the polygraph experience acts as a symbolic communication from the employer to the prospective employee, imparting information that may induce feelings of distrust and dislike. Moreover, the polygraph experience may be interpreted by prospective employees as evidence of high levels of employee theft, thus establishing a new (higher) norm of peer theft behavior.