How to choose a polygraph examiner

The Southern African Polygraph Federation (SAPFED) is a self-regulating professional body which requires its members to adhere to a strict code of ethics, and to conduct examinations in accordance with the organization’s regulations and international standards of practice. SAPFED is a divisional member of the American Polygraph Association (APA); the world’s leading association dedicated to the use of evidence-based scientific methods for credibility assessment.

Only examiners who have qualified from an APA accredited institution may apply for membership at SAPFED. Furthermore, SAPFED requires that all members only use polygraph examination techniques that are considered to be scientifically valid and reliable, reported in at least two peer-reviewed journals, and to attend annual continuous education seminars to ensure that they remain up to date with the latest techniques and research in the field. Should there be a concern that an examiner did not act ethically, fairly, in accordance with international standards of practice, or contravened the regulations of the organization, SAPFED provides a comprehensive quality assurance service that clients may use to review the examination process.

The fact is that polygraph examinations can be a powerful tool or may lead to detrimental consequences if not used properly.

If you require any information, assistance, or would like to book a presentation or consultation on the fair and ethical implementation of polygraph examinations, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Suspect something is wrong?

  1. Ask the examiner about their qualifications. There are no regulations regarding the qualifications required to conduct a polygraph test in South Africa, which means untrained and unqualified examiners may be conducting your polygraph test. It is in your best interest to insist on using examiners that have undergone training accredited by the American Polygraph Association, as these training programs must adhere to minimum standards in-line with international standards of practice.
  2. Check to see if the examiner belongs to a self-regulating professional body. These organizations require their members to adhere to certain standards of practice, to only use validated techniques and to undergo continuous training. These organizations also provide quality assurance review processes. If an examiner does not belong to such an organization, there is no protection for the company or examinee that the examinations were correctly conducted.
  3. Read their affiliation credentials carefully. It is becoming common practice for unscrupulous examiners to use wordplay to attempt to create an association between themselves and recognized or accredited institutions, or to misrepresent their affiliations:
    • If an examiner only states that they are APA accredited, however does not refer to their membership status, it is possible that they accredited from a recognized training institution, however, did not apply for membership to any of the recognized professional bodies, which means that they do not necessarily adhere to the required standards of practice, undergo annual training or adhere to the regulations of such institutions.

    • It is becoming common practice for institutions to claim that they “only use examiners from one institution or an APA accredited institution.” This is done in an attempt to associate the unaccredited institution with APA institutions or to create the impression that the unrecognized institution has equal credibility. If it is not expressly stated that an organization is a divisional member of the American Polygraph Federation, such as the Southern African Polygraph Federation, it is highly likely that the institution is not recognized by them. No wordplay needed.

    • Ask an examiner for their membership certificates. There have been instances where unaffiliated examiners have used or attempted to use training certificates to create an impression that they are affiliated with, or members of, APA accredited or recognized institutions. Only one document can provide such proof, and that is a membership certificate.

If there are any concerns that a person may be dishonest about their affiliations or qualifications, their SAPFED credentials can be checked on the SAPFED website, or you can send an email to

Quick review areas

  1. All examinations must be recorded with video and audio to ensure that they are conducted ethically, fairly and in accordance with international standards of practice.
  2. Examinees should give informed consent before the examination is conducted. Informed consent means that the examinee should be informed of their rights prior to the start of the test and should be informed of the reasons for the examination being conducted.
  3. One examination should take approximately one hour or more to conduct and should include a thorough briefing and pre-examination interview prior to the main test, which should include a thorough explanation of the questions to be asked and the reason for the examination taking place.
  4. According to international standards of practice, an examiner can not conduct more than five examinations per day.
  5. A minimum of three charts should be recorded before an examiner attempts to make any findings on the data recorded during the polygraph examinations.
  6. Excluding very specific circumstances, examinations should include an acquaintance test or practice test prior to the implementation of the main test.
  7. Examinations should be conducted in a non-accusatory manner by an independent or impartial professional.
    Examinees should be afforded the opportunity to ask clarifying questions from the examiner.
  8. Examinees should be afforded the opportunity to ask clarifying questions from the examiner.


If you suspect that your examination was not conducted by a professionally qualified examiner, or that the examination was not conducted in accordance with international standards of practice, please feel free to contact a representative of the Southern African Polygraph Federation at