How Lying Affects Your Brain

Contrary to the warnings of Disney productions, when you tell a lie your nose will not grow. However, a study by researchers at University College London and Duke University shows that lying does affect you physically and makes it easier for you to lie in the future.

This may seem straightforward to some people. If someone lies and gets away with it, they may be emboldened to lie again. Even the authors of the study point out that, anecdotally, digressions from a moral code such as telling the truth are often described as a series of small breaches that grow over time. Their research supports this anecdotal belief, demonstrating that small lies can lead to a gradual ďescalation of self-serving dishonesty.Ē The fascinating part of this study is that there is a neural mechanism that supports increasingly dishonest behavior. In other words, lying trains your brain to lie.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the signal reduction to the amygdala, a part of the brain that is sensitive to dishonest behavior. It usually produces a negative feeling that mitigates our desire to lie. If we push through that feeling and lie anyway, the negative response to lying is weakened and can eventually fade. As the amygdala becomes less sensitive to dishonest behavior, it is easier for us to accept the next dishonest behavior, larger indiscretions and lies.

The authors prefaced the publication of their work in†Nature Neuroscience†by stating that ďDishonesty is an integral part of our social world, influencing domains ranging from finance and politics to personal relationships.Ē I could not help but think of Senator Al Frankenís best-selling book†Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right†and the current political environment in the United States. Senator Frankenís tongue-in-cheek satire was a response to the first term of the George W. Bush presidency and the right-wing media that supported it.

The horrors of 9/11 excepted, Bushís eight years seem like a gentler and arguably, more honest time in American politics than what we are now experiencing. Based on the findings of the study, it should be highly alarming, but not surprising, that a man that has built his fortune, influence and power on decades of lying now decides much of Americaís future. Trumpís amygdala sensitivity, much like his sensitivity to race, women, poverty, the environment and people with opposing opinions, appears to be permanently shut off.

Looking back on my own life, I remember being a young child of about 4 or 5 when my mom asked me a question. Instead of answering her honestly, I told her a lie. She immediately knew I was lying and asked me why I lied to her. I didnít have a good reason (is there a good answer to that question?), but I recall feeling so ashamed that I didnít just tell the truth. My mom made me promise that I would never lie to her again, which I did. And, I quickly learned that honesty really is the best policy. Today, Iím known among my friends and family members as the person who will always give an honest answer, regardless of what Iím asked. When they want an honest answer they tell me they seek me out. Iím grateful for my momís insistence that honesty is the best policy. While I havenít had an MRI assessment of the size or health of my amygdala, Iím sure itís a whole lot healthier than it would have been. Thanks mom. I can think of more than a few politicians who could have used a mom like you.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news Worldís Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, president of PureFood BC, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds:† The 4-Week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier Brain.

88 comments

Maria Papastamatiou

Thanks for posting. I try to be honest and not lie.

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Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D23 days ago

The truth shall set you free is an absolute truth. You can be truthful and tactful so as not to hurt someone. The tRUMP administration should learn this very valuable lesson.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE24 days ago

I try not to lie, but do when it would hurt others.

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Marie P
Marie P27 days ago

The truth hurts, but let the truth be told.

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Peggy B
Peggy B28 days ago

TYFS

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago

Thanks.

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Tanya W
Tanya Wabout a month ago

Thank you

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heather g
heather gabout a month ago

Lying, whether socially or in the public arena, is normally exposed fairly soon. I guess you don't lie because you have self-respect and would prefer to be respected by others as well.

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Debbi -W-
Debbi -W-about a month ago

There are a good many politicians (trump, pence, Ryan,McConnell) and the cabinet who are so well practiced at lying they are good examples for this author.

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Katie S
Katie Sabout a month ago

thanks!

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