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Frequent liars show less activity in key brain structure

Blunted reaction in amygdala may explain how small lies escalate

4:43pm, October 24, 2016
person crossing fingers behind back

TRUTH BE TOLD  As people told more lies, their brain activity changed, a finding that could represent dishonesty’s slippery slope.

When small lies snowball into blizzards of deception, the brain becomes numb to dishonesty. As people tell more and bigger lies, certain brain areas respond less to the whoppers, scientists report online October 24 in Nature Neuroscience. The results might help explain how small transgressions can ultimately set pants aflame.

The findings “have big implications for how lying can develop,” says developmental psychologist Victoria Talwar of McGill University in Montreal, who studies how dishonest behavior develops in children. “It starts to give us some idea about how lying escalates from small lies to bigger ones.”

During the experiment, researchers from University College London and Duke University showed 80 participants a crisp, big picture of a glass jar of pennies. They were told that they needed to send an estimate of how much money was in the jar to an unseen partner who

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