Why liars lie: What science tells us about deception
The courtroom admission by President Trump's longtime attorney not only
implicated the president in a crime, but it also exposed months of denials
by Trump and his aides as lies. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
We all do it sometimes, even though we know it’s wrong.
But here’s the problem with lying: Research shows that the more you lie, the
easier it gets, and the more likely you are to do it again.
“The dangerous thing about lying is people don’t understand how the act changes
us,” said Dan
Ariely, behavioral psychologist at Duke.
Lying is in the news this week after President Trump's longtime lawyer testified
that Trump had directed him to pay hush money to a porn star named Stormy
Daniels just before the 2016 election. The courtroom admission not only
implicated Trump in a crime, it also exposed
months of denials by Trump and his aides as lies.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Aug. 22 that,
"the president did nothing wrong," and called questions about him lying
Psychologists have documented children lying as early as age 2. Some experts
even consider lying a developmental milestone, like crawling and walking,
because it requires sophisticated planning, attention and the ability to see a
situation from someone else’s perspective to effectively manipulate them. But
for most people, lying gets limited as we develop a sense of morality and the
ability to self-regulate.
the prevalence of lying in America found that in a given 24-hour period, most
adults reported not telling any lies. Almost half the lies recorded in the study
could be attributed to just 5 percent of participants. And most people avoided
lying when they could, turning to deception only when the truth was
Harvard cognitive neuroscientist Joshua
Greene said for most of us, lying takes work. In studies, he presented study
subjects with a chance to deceive for monetary gain while examining their brains
in a functional MRI machine, which maps blood flow to active parts of the brain.
Some people told the truth instantly and instinctively. But others opted to lie,
and they showed
increased activity in their frontal parietal control network, which is involved
in difficult or complex thinking. This suggests that they were deciding between
truth and dishonesty — and ultimately opting for the latter.
For a follow-up analysis, he found that people whose neural reward centers were
more active when they won money were also more likely to be among the
group of liars — suggesting that lying may have to do with the inability to
Scientists don’t really know what prevents all of us from lying all the
time. Some believe truth-telling is a social norm we internalize, or a result of
conflict in our brains between the things we want and the positive vision of
ourselves we strive to maintain. But the curious thing about this preventive
mechanism is that it comes from within.
“We are our own judges about our own honesty,” said Ariely, the Duke
psychologist. “And that internal judge is what differentiate psychopaths and non
External conditions also matter in terms of when and how often we lie. We are
more likely to lie, research shows, when we are able to rationalize it, when we
are stressed and fatigued, or when we see others being dishonest. And we are
less likely to lie when we have moral reminders or when we think others are
“We as society need to understand that when we don’t punish lying, we increase
the probability it will happen again,” Ariely said.
In a 2016
the journal Nature Neuroscience, Ariely and colleagues showed how dishonesty
alters people’s brains, making it easier to tell lies in the future. When people
uttered a falsehood, the scientists noticed a burst of activity in their
amygdala. The amygdala is a crucial part of the brain that produces fear,
anxiety and emotional responses — including that sinking, guilty feeling you get
when you lie.
But when scientists had their subjects play a game in which they won money by
deceiving their partner, they noticed the negative signals from the amygdala
began to decrease. Not only that, but when people faced no consequences for
dishonesty, their falsehoods tended to get even more sensational.
“If you give people multiple opportunities to lie for their own benefit,” said Tali
Sharot, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London who led the
research, “they start with little lies and get bigger and bigger over time.”
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Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
The very worst liars, are those with absolute power, who have no accountability.
It is easiest
for Judges, police officers and lawyers, the worst of whom become judges.
Ottawa Ontario Superior Court, the Children's Aid Society, the Ottawa Police are
a collection of the
worst "deplorable in society.