A group of scientists found that people who tell small lies for their own gain end up inventing grandiose scenarios. In other words, all big liars have started with an insignificant falsehood.
According to a new paper published in the Nature Neuroscience magazine, self-serving fabrications have a tendency to grow out of proportions. The team involved in the study studied the chemical reactions of the brains of liars.
During a news briefing, Tali Sharot of College London University, one of the authors of the paper, declared that the study was based on the premise that a small lie is like a snowball, once it goes down a snowy path it becomes bigger and bigger until it causes an avalanche.
Sharot continued by saying that the participants who were interviewed for the paper often told of little lies like infidelity, doping, and tax evasion that ended up as significantly large crimes.
Sharot and her team believed that cause of these escalations is the emotional adaptation process. EAP is known to make the brain respond less strongly when confronted with the same stimulus. The best example, in this case, is the way in which the brain adapts to perfume, the wearer getting used to the smell after the fifth application.
According to Sharot’s theory, the first time a person is dishonest takes a toll on the individual’s morality. However, in time, the person gets more comfortable with constructing fabrications. Each time a deception is told, the individual’s brain has a lower negative reaction to the behavior. The process goes on and on until the person does not feel guilty about spreading falsehoods.
In order to test their theory, the team set up a set of tests. A sample of eight individuals was coupled with actors and instructed to guess the number of pennies in a jar. There were different sets of rewards, and the volunteers were given the opportunity to lie for their own benefit.
Another set of 25 participants were submitted to the same experiment, only they were connected to an MRI scanner so that the scientists would be able to monitor their brain activity.
The researchers found that the first time that the volunteers lied for their own gain, the amygdala lit up. As the deceptions grew bigger, the response of the amygdala became weaker.
The conclusion of the experiment was that the more people lie, the more comfortable they become with the activity. Furthermore, they always started their chain of deceptions with a small lie.
What do you think about the experiment? Have you ever been in a situation where small lies escalated and got you in trouble?
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