The “truth” behind the polygraph services on the reality TV show, Maury





There is no shortage of reality television shows that make use of polygraph services for means of entertainment. The Maury Show – originally known as The Maury Povich Show – is one of the most watched and enjoyed. The long-running tabloid talk show has been described as “ingenious,” “compelling,” and even “trashy” by numerous fans and doubters, but one thing remains – the showrunners utilise polygraph services in many episodes in order to satisfy the queries of guests who travel from all over the United States to star on the show. Many critics, however, have expressed concern over the veracity of the paternity and polygraph tests conducted during the show, creating overall doubt as to whether or not the show and its happenings are outright fake. In just a few minutes of reading, discover the “truth” behind the lie detection in Maury.


A brief history of the show


Premiering in 1991 under the title “The Maury Povich Show,” the program was produced by MoPo Productions – in associated with the big-named Paramount Domestic Television organisation. At the start, the show tackled serious topics such as gang warfare and social welfare. As it progressed, it took on teenage pregnancies, paternity tests, sexual infidelities and finally – lie detection. With its gain in popularity and long term in the spotlight, the question of “is it real” lingers on. It is not uncommon for shows such as Maury to resort to lie detector tests for quick and easy denouncements for the purpose of entertainment – even if these tests and their results are not always sound.


When posed this question in the past, the host Maury Povich himself alleged that all guests are screened to make sure that their problems are real, and that journalistic procedures are used in the fact gathering process. This involves interviewing friends, bosses and family members of the guests, not to mention the apparently sound polygraph services that take place behind the scenes of the show. Host-executive producer Maury Povich is the only TV personality who has had three consecutive and successful syndicated shows, and American statistics place his show as the number one talk show about men and women between the ages of 18 to 34.


Beginning his career in broadcast journalism over 50 years ago, Povich was a street reporter in Washington D.C where he was born. During the 60’s and 70’s, Povich was the host of a daily live news talk show by the name of “Panorama,” which tackled events like the aftermath of JFK’s assassination as well as that of Martin Luther King Jr. Povich then became involved with the news magazine “A Current Affair,” which after its launch in 1986 became an instant success, with many experts claiming that the magazine forever changed the news gathering habits of TV news programs. With such a diverse career in the field, it is no wonder that Maury maintains a high calibre to be one of the most popular programs not only in the United States, but also worldwide.




Suspicious circumstances


Despite the well-respected Povich’s insistence that the show, its guests, polygraph services and paternity tests are all legit, there have been several reports of embellishments. One person who served an internship at the show admitted that the producers – tasked with screening participants – revved up the guests before taping segments in order to make them highly emotional. Friends of guests have also alleged that the portrayal of their problems on the show were inaccurate and littered with triggering content in order to rile up watchers.




There is no shortage of people who have worked on the show who claim that the audience, on that matter, is coached. Someone involved in the show went so far as to say that they were asked to stand outside the filming location and offer people passing by money in exchange for being part of the audience. Other accounts suggest that audience members are given marijuana and alcohol backstage before the show in order to make them behave more rambunctiously. Producers then allegedly coach audience members on when to cheer or boo to create maximum effect – which is not uncommon for reality TV talk shows.


Despite these circumstances (that arguably represent the usual characteristics of reality shows), there are perhaps some more troublesome details that call the veracity of the show into question – the allegedly accurate polygraph services on the show. The show itself does not record the polygraph services that take place before a segment is recorded, and the host delivers the results from a piece of paper he reads during the recording. In most episodes, he reads out the results of one question alone, which are taken as fact by himself and the audience – which presents a problem. The accuracy of polygraph services depends largely on whether or not the testing environment is appropriate, as well as the condition of the test subject and the professionalism of the examiner.


When it comes to the show, the audience is not privy to information regarding the above, nor is such information available on the show’s website for those questioning the process – making the whole thing unconfirmable. One critic suggests that there may have been several instances of people’s lives being ruined by dubious lie detector results in reality TV shows such as Maury. The public myth that polygraph instruments used in reality TV are truly accurate may be the cause of great suffering and heartache.




An example would be the unfortunate death of one participant of the “Jeremy Kyle Show,” a man named Steve Dymond. After appearing on the since-cancelled show, Dymond died of a suspected overdose following a failed polygraph examination in the show’s studio. Dymond had been eager to appear on the show in order to prove to his fiancé that he had not been unfaithful as she had believed. Whether or not the polygraph services of reality TV shows such as Maury are accurate, having the results confirmed for the whole world to see is a ticket to being enveloped in public shame, a social phenomenon that can destroy lives as much as fame can build them.


When it comes to polygraph services, the key to understanding why the instrument is not an infallibly conclusive “lie detector” can be found in the knowledge of what factors are measured during the examination and how these conditions arise. The polygraph instrument measures proxies such as the galvanic skin response (which is the amount of electricity that is conducted by the fingertips depending on sweat levels), the heart-rate as well as breathing. The main idea behind the test is that should a subject be deceptive, they will begin to sweat, their heart rate will increase and their breathing will turn shallower.


The qualified examiner will pose a series of irrelevant questions in order to establish a baseline, or standard, reading of the subject’s typical physical conditions. Once they have done this, they will progress to relevant questions that need to be investigated. In the case of the tragic Steve Dymond case, these questions related to infidelity – which is one major aspect of the Maury show as well. The lie detection theory goes that any notable deviations from the established baseline readings are indicative of the subject’s deception. But there is always room for error – something that an experienced polygraph services professional knows well.


The act of lying is certainly not the only thing that can cause stress during questioning. It is likely that there is pre-existing stress associated with questions along the lines of “have you cheated on your spouse?” If the subject is aware that there relationship may very well be on the line depending on their reaction to this question, answering it truthfully may still bring about stress indicators in the body – which the polygraph instrument will undoubtedly pick up. According to the British Psychological Society in an report, it would be naïve to assume that these types of questions would not cause a stress response.




In the report, an interesting example is given. It states that should an innocent man, who is suspected of murdering his beloved wife, be asked questions relating to his wife in a polygraph examination, the memory of his wife and her death will certainly reawaken feelings about her that could be mistaken as deception-related stress responses in the body. This is why polygraph results are not always taken as solid evidence in courts of law. The fear of being disbelieved, according to the report, may make a subject more anxious when answering the most serious questions. This is where the experience and professionalism of the examiner comes in.


There is much more to an accurate lie detection examination than the polygraph instrument’s recordings, which is why it is not surprising that critics of Maury are doubtful when the host simply reads out the polygraph results and watches as chaos ensues. However, it is known that an individual by the name of Ralph Barbieri administers the polygraph services on the show, and his credentials prove that he has had training in polygraph testing. Sometimes, Barbieri makes an appearance during a segment to reveal that a participant passed with “flying colours” or that a subject had “significant reactions” to a certain question. The question of whether or not these pre-segment examinations are legitimate depends on the integrity of Barbieri and his professionalism.


Regardless, when any institution begins to use polygraph services for the purpose of entertainment (even if it is masked by the desire to make a social impact), there will always be room for doubt. When making use of polygraph services from a professional company with years of experience, such as Polygraph Truths, you can rest easy knowing that both the testing conditions as well as the experience of the examiner will ensure an accurate result. We specialise in pre-employment screening, infidelity screening, periodic screening and post-incident screening.


A Maury lie detector test to remember


Perhaps the most-watched lie detection examination on Maury was that concerning the famous singer and celebrity, Lil Nas (whose real name is Montero Hill). The star confronts a music video co-star Yai Ariza in order to get to the bottom of their relationship drama. Allegedly, Hill had a romance with Ariza after filming the “That’s What I Want” music video, only to turn up at Ariza’s house to discover that he is married with a 4-year-old child. In the episode, which many have supposed to be a publicity stunt, Ariza was not only discovered to have cheated on both his wife and Hill during their fling, but also to not be the father of the child.




While the entertainment aspect of this segment is undeniable, the episode has come under criticism for making light of the polygraph process – since it is likely that the results were fake. This is made more believable by the impromptu and on-cue marriage proposal from Ariza to Hill, after revealing that he wishes to leave his wife for him. Regardless of the spectacle, this lie detector debacle was widely observed by the audience and viewers all over the world.