The more we lie, the easier it gets to deal with the lie emotionally, according to new research.
I once saw an episode of Leave It To Beaver, in which Beaver told a small lie to his parents that was quickly discredited, and that sent Ward into the standard parent lecture about telling lies, and how much easier it became to lie as more lies were told.
Well, new research by scientists at University College of London and Duke University is confirming what Ward said to the Beaver was true after all, according to a story on washingtonpost.com.
Eighty college volunteers were asked to tell another participant their best guess at the number of pennies in a jar, but one subset was given incentives to mislead the other participant about the number, while others were given incentives that would either benefit both participants or hurt the second.
The scientist team monitored the participant’s brains with a fMRI as they were performing the assigned tasks, looking at the part of the brain knows as the amygdala. This brain region is know as the spot where emotions, emotional behavior and motivation are integrated.
The findings showed the more times the subjects told the lies, the less activity occurred in the amygdala, indicating the subjects found the latter lies easier on their emotions.
“People often perceive self-serving dishonesty as morally wrong and report uneasiness when engaging in such behavior,” said the study’s authors in the report. “Consistent with these reports … measures of emotional arousal are observed when people deceive.”
According to the article, the new research was not all that surprising. Over the years, it has been proven that repeated exposure to a negative emotion tends to diminish the intensity of the emotional response. A classic example is the soldier becoming accustomed to the horrors of war as the tour of duty passes.
Possibly that could also explain some of the indifference some have to lying by political candidates, or even the candidates themselves.
The results of the study were published in Nature Neuroscience, and can be found here.