Over time lies may desensitise brain to dishonesty

From: theguardian.com,  by Hannah Devlin,  on Oct 24, 2016

The study suggests that telling small, insignificant lies desensitizes the brain to dishonesty, meaning that lying gradually feels more comfortable over time




American fraudster Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Catch Me If You Can, started out swindling his father out of small change for date money and ended up impersonating an airline pilot, despite the admission that he “couldn’t fly a kite”.

Now scientists have uncovered an explanation for why telling a few porkies has the tendency to spiral out of control. The study suggests that telling small, insignificant lies desensitizes the brain to dishonesty, meaning that lying gradually feels more comfortable over time.

Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at University College London and senior author, said: “Whether it’s evading tax, infidelity, doping in sports, making up data in science or financial fraud, deceivers often recall how small acts of dishonesty snowballed over time and they suddenly found themselves committing quite large crimes.”

Sharot and colleagues suspected that this phenomenon was due to changes in the brain’s response to lying, rather than simply being a case of one lie necessitating another to maintain a story.

In the study, published on Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, 80 volunteers played a game in which they estimated the value of pennies in a jar and sent their guess to an unseen partner. Sometimes participants were told they would secretly benefit at their partner’s expense if they overestimated the cash in the jar, incentivising them to lie.

Neil Garrett, also of UCL and a co-author, said: “We knew by how many British pounds they lied on each trial. The amount by which participants lied got larger and larger.”

At first, volunteers tended to alter the jar’s value by around £1, but this typically ramped up to about £8 by the end of the session.

Twenty-five of the volunteers played the game while having their brain activity monitored by an MRI scanner. This showed that the amygdala, a part of the brain linked with emotion, was most active when people told their first lie. But while the untruths escalated in magnitude, the amygdala’s response gradually declined – and larger drops in brain activity predicted bigger lies in future.

The researchers said this adaptation effect was similar to those seen in basic sensory experiences. A scent becomes less potent when smelt repeatedly, for instance.

“You can imagine cheating a bit like perfume,” said Sharot. The first time you cheat on your taxes you feel quite bad, she added, but if you get away with it and benefit this bad behaviour is reinforced and the next time it doesn’t feel quite so bad, leading you to cheat even more.

Professor Marcus Raichle, a neurologist of the Washington School of Medicine in St Louis who was not involved in the work, said that lying was probably a learnt behaviour. “It’s a nice study… It seems reasonable that if you develop a pattern of behaviour and it’s reinforced that you would return to that habit,” he said. “An interesting question is whether there would be interventions to un-train somebody. If you’re a chronic liar that’s really a problem for society.”

He added that there was little prospect of converting the findings into a more accurate lie detection test – in fact, the variation over time in the brain’s response to lying demonstrates how difficult it would be to come up with a universal test. “Lie detection using fMRI isn’t ready for prime time,” he said.

The scientists speculate that the amygdala activity could represent the internal conflict between wanting to see oneself as honest and being tempted to act in self-interest by lying. This would fit with the scientists’ observation that people appeared to lie more readily in tasks where it benefited both themselves and their partner – possibly because it was easier to justify a lie that served the common good.


So there we have it, Hillary’s amygdala has apparently just shut down and atrophied due to lack of activity. The study explains how a proficient, professional liar like Hillary has lied so often, her internal mechanisms can no longer differentiate between the truth and a whopper. And, more importantly, her success in evading responsibility for her falsehoods just means that the next ones will be even bigger whoppers.

It’s a good thing that Hillary isn’t a practicing Catholic, she’d have to borrow sins from friends in order to confess anything to the priest.




Categories: General

Tags: ,

4 replies

  1. All leftists are liars. It goes with the territory, and it never surprises me. What does surprise me is the voters’ tolerance of it. The electorate has become like a subjugated spouse with such low self-respect that their abuser openly treats them with disdain without fear of losing their loyalty. These are the people scientists should be studying.


    • Yeah, the battered wife syndrome is a perfect analogy. It’s just like any other behavior, acceptance of it will just encourage more of it and Hillary’s decades-long political career just reinforces that. Her life just proves that if one tells lies often enough and big enough and gets away with it, one could become president. What a great encouragement to keep on lying!


  2. Our thinking is similar, Garnet – we could be looking at someone who was born without the amygdala. She’s been lying for so long and so often, I’m pretty sure hers is MIA. The part that’s so aggravating is that her lies are acceptable to the lefties, including the media, and it turns them into liars too.


    • This is a worrisome issue for me. We, as a people, have become entirely too accepting of people lying. We’re bombarded daily from all sides with lies and we’ve become so desensitized to them that we just accept them as “normal.”

      So, what’s the benefit for telling the truth if there’s no price to be paid for lying? Is it only our personal conscience? Aren’t telling lies “bearing false witness”? Isn’t that supposed to be a sin? It’s just one more step towards becoming a Godless nation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: