Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 31st 2016 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, October 31, 2016
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
WASHINGTON---Telling little fibs leads down a slip-
pery slope to bigger lies---and our brains adapt to
escalating dishonesty, which makes deceit easier, a
new study shows.
Neuroscientists at the University College London s
Affective Brain Lab put 80 people in scenarios where
they could repeatedly lie and get paid more based on
the magnitude of their lies. They said they were the
first to demonstrate empirically that people s lies grow
bolder the more they fib.
The researchers then used brain scans to show that
our mind s emotional hot spot---the amygdala---
becomes desensitised or used to the growing dishon-
esty, according to a study published online Monday
in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
"You can think of this as a slippery slope with what
begins as small acts of dishonesty escalating to much
larger ones," said study lead author Neil Garrett, now
a neuroscience researcher at Princeton University.
"It highlights the potential dangers of engaging in
small acts of dishonesty on a regular basis because
these can escalate to much larger ones further down
And during this lying, brain scans that show blood
supply and activity at the amygdala decrease with
increasing lies, said study co-author and lab director
"The more we lie, the less likely we are to have an
emotional response"---say, shame or guilt---"that
accompanies it," Sharot said.
Garrett said he suspects similar escalation factors
happen in the "real world," which would include pol-
itics, infidelity and cheating, but he cautioned that
this study was done in a controlled lab setting so
more research would be needed to apply it to other
University of Massachusetts psychology and brain
sciences professor Robert Feldman wasn t part of the
study but praised it: "The results provide clues as to
how people may become more convincing liars with
practice, and it clearly suggests the danger of tolerating
small, white lies, which can escalate into greater and
greater levels of deception."
Garrett, Sharot and colleagues arranged for 80
people to go through an experiment where they would
see a photo of a jar full of pennies.
The subject would advise a partner in another
room---someone who was looking at a photo that
was less clear---how much money they should guess
was in the jar. But the more the partner overestimated
the bonus, based on the subject s advice, the higher
The researchers did a couple variations of the
experiment. In one version the test subject was told
he and the partner would share in overestimating
rewards; in that case, the subject s lies were even
But in another scenario, the test subject would
benefit more from overestimating and the partner
would benefit less.
That second scenario showed the increase in the
magnitude in lying. The people went from lying on
average worth £4 (about US$5) at the beginning to
about £8 (US$10) near the end of about 80 repeti-
tions---thus going from "little lies to bigger and bigger
lies," Sharot said.
And of those 80 test subjects, 25 of them, chosen
randomly, did their estimates while an MRI machine
scanned their brain. It showed how we get used to
the lying, much like someone no longer noticing the
smell of their own perfume over time and thus using
more, Sharot said.
It shows people s brains adapting to their own
wrongdoing. It was so noticeable that the researchers
were able to predict growing dishonesty based on
the dropping activity in the amygdala.
The study found that there is a segment of people
who don t lie and don t escalate lies, but Sharot
and Garrett weren t able to determine how rare
those honest people are. It also found that people
lie more when it benefits both them and someone
else than when they just profit alone.
Study finds little lies
lead to bigger ones
This November 2014 file photo shows a brain-scanning MRI machine at Carnegie
Mellon University in Pittsburgh. AP PHOTO
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