The more you lie, the easier it gets
Scientists discover that you can actually train your brain to lie.
One lie leads to another, goes the old adage. And now we've got neuroscience to back it up.
According to a new study, people who tell small lies end up training their brains to tell more and bigger lies. The research was conducted by scientists from University College London in England and Duke University in North Carolina – including superstar Israeli-American behavioral economist Dan Ariely, who has a thing for studying dishonesty.
"Once people lie, they have an easier time lying later," Ariely told From the Grapevine.
The scientists ran an experiment that showed how people's brains reacted to lies. Participants had to look at high-resolution photos of pennies in a jar. They then had to send over their guesses to partners who were looking at low-resolution photos of the jars. But in a Punk'd-style turn of events, the partners were actually actors in disguise.
When the participants knew that lying would help them, they often lied – no surprise there. But the interesting thing was, participants who lied changed their brains.
When the scientists hooked up the participants to an MRI machine that measured brain activity, they found that the amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for feeling emotions, lit up. But as participants lied more and more, their amygdalae lit up less and less. That meant that the participants' brains were getting used to lying. In other words, people who may have felt guilty about lying at first eventually just felt normal about it. The more you lie, the easier it gets.
"As we lie more and more, our brain becomes desensitized to that level of dishonesty," Ariely told us. "The brain is no longer surprised ... and we can more easily continue lying."
At this point, it's hard to link cause and effect. The scientists still don't know if the change in brain activity caused the lying, or if the brain activity was simply a reflection of psychological changes, or if it's all kind of a cycle, man. But however you think about it, small lies seem to be something to watch out for, especially since telling the whole truth makes you feel better.
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