Our Brain Makes Liars Even Better At Lying

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Neil Garrett PhD Student

Affective Brain Lab
Department of Experimental Psychology
University College London
London, UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

1. BEHAVIOURAL FINDING: The amount by which participants lied got larger and larger over the course of the block. Dishonesty escalation was observed only when participants lied for their own benefit, not when they did so solely for the benefit of others.

2. BRAIN FINDING: A network of brain regions associated with emotion responded strongly when participants lied initially. But as time went on, it would respond less and less to the same amount of lying. The greater the drop in sensitivity, the more a person increased their lying the next opportunity they got.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This study provides the first empirical evidence that dishonest behaviour escalates when it is repeated, when all else is held constant. And it ties this phenomenon to emotional adaptation. It highlights the potential dangers of engaging in small acts of dishonesty on a regular basis, but also suggests a possible avenue to curbing dishonesty – such as finding ways to reproduce a negative emotional reaction that stops us from engaging in such acts.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

  1.  More research is needed to figure out the implications for the “real world”. For example, does lying escalate over the long term? Does it escalate even if you alter the context by which people tell lies? I speculate it may be, but further research is needed.
  2.  It would be interesting to examine if the same mechanism underlies other escalations – such as escalation of risk taking or violent behaviour.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Nature Neuroscience
(2016) doi:10.1038/nn.4426
Published online 24 October 2016

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.
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