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The Buzz: The Truth About Lying

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Why do some people lie much more frequently than others? A new study in PNAS indicates that consistently honest people don’t have to struggle to overcome temptation—they simply don’t feel it. Psychologists at Harvard scanned the brains of 35 volunteers while they predicted the outcome of a computerized coin toss game for money. In one trial, lying about their prediction after seeing the outcome could increase the total earned; in a second trial, all the volunteers were forced to tell the truth by calling the coin before the toss. By studying each person’s reported predictions from both trials, the participants were identified as either generally honest or generally dishonest. In the brains of the group considered generally dishonest, a specific trio of regions known as the control network was active when the participants did decide to tell the truth, while in the brains of honest participants, the network was no more active than when they were forced to be honest. Says Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science, “This result is fairly counter-intuitive, for we tend to believe that honesty is an act of will overcoming temptation.”

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  • Will vs. Grace – are people honest because they resist temptation or because they don’t feel it? on Not Exactly Rocket Science
  • Good to the bone; adducing honesty via imaging on Gene Expression
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