Lying becomes successively easy to those who keep up the habit of telling fibs, indicates a new study. Researchers looked at MRI scans of lying test subjects to discover that the art of lying becomes increasingly simpler, while the lies get consecutively bigger with each untruth.
The first lie is difficult to tell and taxing on the conscience. Not only is coming up with your first untrue tale perplexing, often the story is filled with multiple gaping holes that the person listening to the lies easily catches you in the act. Nearly everyone is guilty of telling a small white lie at some point in their lives. Whether it is falsifying information on the tax returns, lying to your spouse or lover to avoid a big confrontation, everyone attempts to offer an untrue version of events.
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However, these little lies, while difficult to tell at first, can quickly become a lot easier to generate. Moreover, the lies tend to get larger with each subsequent incident. Researchers note that lies told by compulsive liars are often elaborate. Essentially, dishonesty is a “slippery slope,” claim researchers.
Understanding the processes behind lying is quite complex, and numerous psychology and sociology studies have been conducted to reveal the same. However, the behavior of liars is commonly observed. Hence scientists wanted to investigate if biology had anything to do with lying and if yes, how did it impact the process.
The study, titled “The Human Brain Adapts to Dishonesty,” published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, looked at specific regions of the brains when test subjects were asked to lie. The MRI scans strongly indicate the process of lying is connected with the brain. The amygdala, in particular, is the most crucial part in lying, noted Dr. Tali Sharot, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London and one of the authors of the study,
“When we lie for personal gain, our amygdala produces a negative feeling that limits the extent to which we are prepared to lie. However, this response fades as we continue to lie and the more it (fades) the bigger our lies become. This may lead to a ‘slippery slope’ where small acts of dishonesty escalate into more significant lies.”
Essentially, serial lies continually register a diminishing emotional response in the brain. In other words, pathological liars steadily feel less remorse, and eventually, may not feel any guilt, when they lie. Scientists note that the white lies the person tells in the beginning gradually desensitize his or her brain to the adverse emotions associated with the process, and may even set up the person to tell ever bigger lies in the future, reported Forbes.
Interestingly amygdala isn’t the only region that “lights up” when a person lies. However, it is the most prominent one, and is actively involved in the process. Over a period, liars no longer feel anything when they lie, noted Sharot.
“If someone lies repeatedly, they no longer have an emotional response when they lie. In absence of an emotional response, they feel more comfortable and lie more.”
Surprisingly, this steadily diminishing response can easily be observed about other sensory aspects as well. A strong perfume gradually loses its effect to the wearer, while strangers may be repulsed. Horror movies or gruesome photographs steadily generate milder responses to a point they can’t scare the viewer anymore. Similarly, small fibs gradually steel the mind to such a point that the liar simply doesn’t feel any remorse or guilt. Moreover, frequency is the key to lying with ease. To lie efficiently, one has to practice, concludes the study.
Interestingly, researchers aren’t sure if the brain’s decreased emotional response to lying helped liars become better at their skill or was it merely a reflection of the activity.
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