The more we lie—the easier it gets
Even the smallest lie reduces brain’s susceptibility (in the area called amygdala) to negative emotions, which appear when we are dishonest. This was revealed by the study commissioned by Wellcome and the Center for Advanced Hindsight and analysed by specialists from the University College of London. It means that the more we lie, the easier it gets.
Moreover, the researchers were able to reveal how amygdala’s reaction to lying declines with every time we utter fables, Science Daily reports.
A special experiment was conducted to study this phenomenon.
The team of scientists scanned brains of 80 people while they were involved in a game. During the game, people were allowed to use deceit for their own benefit.
The participants were supposed to count the number of coins in a jar and then send results of their calculations to invisible partners via computer. There were 8 variants of the scenario.
In the main scenario, people were told that those who guess the correct number of coins would benefit both themselves and partners.
The remaining scenarios were more intriguing. Over- or under-estimating the results was supposed to bring benefits to:
- the person at the partner’s expense
- the partner at the person’s expense
- both participants
- one of the members with no losses for anyone
In case where the participants could gain at their partner’s expense, they started to gradually add up to the results of calculations. Over the course of time, people exaggerated their results significantly.
How our brains get used to lying
Experiments established that the amygdala is more active when a person deceits for the first time. As the intensity of amygdala’s response drops, the scale of untruths increases. This is why scientists believe that dishonesty may lead to larger lies in future.
The leading author Dr. Tali Sharot says that when we deceit, the amygdala causes a bad feeling, which serves as a barrier to further lies. However, this reaction fades with time, opening the doors for more lies.
The researchers note that this approach is also applicable to other immoral activities such as risk taking and aggression. The slippery slope leads to greater transgressions fairly quickly.