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article imageThe brains of people who lie regularly change

By Tim Sandle     Oct 29, 2016 in Science
London - The more a person lies, the more their brain becomes desensitized to lying, according to a new study. Whether it is scientific, political or financial fraud, or infidelity, the brain can adapt to the continued lying so the process becomes easier.
New research conducted by Professor Tali Sharot at University College London, together with her research team, considers how a person's brain becomes desensitized to lying. This represented an attempt to understand why lying at first is difficult but how the process then goes on to become easier the more often a person lies and how the regular repeating of a significant lie, such as an extra-martial affair, becomes internally justified by the equivocator over time.
The research consisted of running an experiment where the purpose was to encourage the study participants to lie. According to New Scientist, a task was set whereby each subject was shown jars of pennies, containing variable quantities. Each participant in the group was then linked to a brain scanner and told to send an estimate to a partner in another room. The partner could only see a blurred image of the jar, so was reliant upon the estimate given.
This played over several rounds, with different variations. Sometimes a correct answer meant a financial reward for both the volunteer and their partner; at other times, the volunteer was told a wrong answer from the partner would result in a higher reward for them (but less for their partner). The latter round would result in the more incorrect the answer, the greater the personal reward.
It was found that when it came to self-serving lies, the volunteer’s dishonesty increased as the experiment was run. Here each lie became greater than the one before. At the same time, physiological changes were noted in the brain via the brain scanners. With first lie there was a burst of activity in the amygdalae (emotional response areas of the brain); however, activity levels fell as the lies progressed.
In essence, when someone first tells a lie they tend to feel bad. However, as time progresses and the lie is repeated, the effect lessens. This appears coincidental with the amygdalae activity. Here the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions occur.
The research findings are published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The research paper is titled "The brain adapts to dishonesty."
More about Liars and brains, Brains, Physiology, Biochemistry, Lies
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