CLAIM TO FAME: In Connecticut, convicted sex offenders are on probation for at least 10 years after serving time. Tiana Kalba Kostic '06 is one of the people making sure these ex-cons comply with the terms of their probation. A certified forensic psychophysiologist and polygraph examiner, she questions them about their past crimes, sexual history, and current behavior — while a polygraph machine records blood pressure, breathing, sweating, and other physical reactions that indicate the truthfulness of their responses.
TV BECOMES REALITY: When she was about 14 years old, Kostic discovered a Court TV show about Dayle Hinman, an FBI criminal profiler. She was hooked. She studied psychology at Wagner, then earned her master's in forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, followed by certification in the psychophysiology of the detection of deception.
LIAR LIAR: How can the layperson, who does not have the advantage of using a polygraph (a machine, Kostic notes, that is 98 percent accurate), detect deception in everyday life? Kostic offers two easy tips: Women tend to touch the back of their neck if they are feeling tension; men often touch their nose if they're trying to hide something.
EVERYDAY PEOPLE: Kostic confronts a lot of very tough stuff on her job, but she loves it. “Every day I get to hear a story,” she says — all kinds of stories. “You wouldn't be able to pick a sex offender out of a crowd. They're just everyday people. I test 18-year-old boys, I test 65-year-old men, I test poor people, I test millionaires who live in a mansion in Fairfield. There's no one set characteristic of a sex offender.”
FACING THE DARKNESS: The key, she says, is not taking what she hears personally. And it can get very personal: “One time an offender told me I was just his type, because he went after 25-year-old women, brown hair, blue eyes. ... But I can't get offended by that. He was just making a statement.” Her job is to keep listening, keep watching — and to ask the next question.
Photo by Bob Handelman.