The person lies every 10 minutes. How do the brain and body react to deception?

Why are we lying?

People lie to hide their wrongs: this is what the American swimmer Ryan Lochte did,

which during the 2016 Summer Olympicsstated that he was robbed at a gas station at gunpoint. In fact, the armed guards found him and his teammates, drunk after the party, tampering with other people's property. Even academic science - a world inhabited by people who have devoted their lives to the search for truth - is full of crooks, such as the physicist Yang Hendrik Schön, whose alleged breakthrough studies of molecular semiconductors turned out to be a hoax.

These liars became famous for how blatant, audacious, or dangerous their deception turned out to be. But their fraud and lies are not inconceivable.

Most of us are real experts whenit's about lying. We lie constantly and naturally: in small things and on a large scale, to strangers and close people, when our safety depends on it and when there is not the slightest sense in it. The human ability to be dishonest is as fundamental as the need to trust others. As paradoxical as it sounds, we are often poor at recognizing lies.

Deceit is woven into the very fabric of our nature sodeeply that the expression “it is human to lie” cannot be called a lie. The ubiquity of lies was first systematically described by Bella De Paulo, a social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Twenty years ago, De Paulo and her colleagues asked 147 people for a week to write down all the times they tried to mislead someone.

In most cases, this lie was harmless:to hide oversights or to protect the feelings of others. Sometimes it served as an excuse: one of the participants did not take out the garbage and dumped it on the fact that he did not know where to take it. Another type of lie - like trying to impersonate the son of a diplomat - was aimed at creating a different impression of himself. These misdemeanors were minor, but a later study by De Paulo and her colleagues on a similar sample of participants found that at some point most people lie big, for example, hide an affair from their spouse or make false statements when applying to college.

How do we lie?

Lying is a complex process.

Lying is difficult not only psychologically,but also from the standpoint of neurobiology. There is no specific “department of lying” in our head - many parts of the brain are involved in this process. Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging have shown the "involvement" in lying and the prefrontal cortex - the area responsible for attention, planning and decision-making - and the anterior cingulate cortex (involved in expectation of rewards, decision-making, impulsivity management), and the superior frontal gyrus (associated with self-awareness), and the anterior parietal cortex, and the premotor cortex, and other areas.

And when we tell the truth, it becomes much calmer, because our limbic system is not stressed by lying, and our frontal lobe does not interfere with the truth.

Collection of Research Examining Neuralcorrelates of deception have grown significantly over the years, leading to the identification of a number of candidate regions as potentially playing a role in deception. In a recent publication, scientists conducted a meta-analysis of these studies to try to identify the brain structures that were constantly being activated during the lie. The researchers analyzed 23 studies that altogether described 321 lesions of interest.

Scientists have found significant variabilityresearch findings, however, a number of areas were generally active during deception, including parts of the prefrontal cortex, the inferior parietal lobe, the anterior insular, and the medial superior frontal cortex.

How can a lie be recognized with the help of science?

Many lies are commonplace and are told simply to keep the peace or to cheer someone up.

But more dangerous lies like the accusationanyone in crime or lying to investors has devastating consequences not only for the deceived people, but also for the liar. Dishonesty puts the brain on heightened vigilance, and this stress increases as the scope of the lie increases.

Why does the brain care about honesty?As social animals, we value our reputation. Our survival depends on whether the tribe accepts us. Consequently, most people work hard to maintain the image of a reliable, decent, accepted person.

Knowing that dishonesty can cause irreparabledamage to reputation, lying is inherently stressful. When we cheat, our breathing and pulse quicken, we sweat, our mouths dry up, and our voice can tremble. Some of these physiological effects form the basis of the classic polygraph test.

People differ in their ability to liepartly due to differences in the brain. To take an extreme example, sociopaths lack empathy and therefore do not exhibit the typical physiological response to lying. Liars can also get a polygraph test if they are taught to stay calm during the test. Likewise, innocent people may fail a test simply because they fear being hooked up to intimidating equipment. For these reasons, the accuracy of a polygraph test is often challenged. An alternative is to use fMRI images.

Functional magnetic resonance imagingor fMRI - a type of MRI that is performed to measure hemodynamic responses (changes in blood flow) caused by neuronal activity in the brain or spinal cord. This method is based on the fact that cerebral blood flow and neuronal activity are linked. When an area of ​​the brain is active, blood flow to that area also increases.

fMRI allows you to determine the activation of a certainareas of the brain during its normal functioning under the influence of various physical factors (for example, body movement) and under various pathological conditions.

Today it is one of the most actively developingtypes of neuroimaging. Since the early 1990s, functional MRI has become dominant in the imaging of brain processes due to its relatively low invasiveness, lack of exposure to radiation, and relatively wide availability.

Overlaying the value map (orange) on the lateral (top) and medial (bottom) of the brain reveals areas consistently involved in deception across studies.

MFG: Middle frontal gyrus; IFG: inferior frontal gyrus; IPL: inferior parietal lobe; m / SFG: medial / superior frontal gyrus

In contrast, studies usingBrain imaging has proven to be much more informative for studying the body's response to lies. Symptoms of anxiety stem from the fact that lying activates the brain's limbic system, the same area that triggers the fight-or-flight response that is triggered during other stresses. When people are frank, this area of ​​the brain shows minimal activity. But when he tells a lie, it lights up like fireworks. An honest brain is relaxed, and a dishonest one is incredibly active.

How does lying affect the body?

There has been a lot of research done on the health effects of pathological lies, and you know what? This can harm your health.

According to Ph.D. Arthur Markman, at thatthe very second you utter a lie, your body is releasing cortisol. Just a few minutes later, your memory starts to overload, trying to remember both the lie and the truth. Making decisions becomes more difficult, and you may even project your discomfort in the form of anger. This is all in the first 10 minutes.

After these first reactions, you can startworry about the believability of the lie or that you will be caught in it. To deal with this feeling, the attitude towards the person you cheated can change. From a more affectionate-than-usual relationship to anger, you will convince yourself that the other person's fault was your lie.

The day after the lie, one thing can happenof the two. If you are used to pathological lies, you can begin to believe in them. If not, you may feel bad and try to avoid meeting the person you lied to. Prolonged feelings of guilt lead to sleep disturbances for several days.

All this extra stress is negativealso affects your health. It can raise blood pressure, cause headaches and back pain, and decrease white blood cell count. A lot of mental energy goes into telling and supporting lies, which makes you anxious and, in some cases, depressed. That's not all. These feelings affect your digestion, causing diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, and cramps.

Research project of the University of Notre Dame inIndiana studied the consequences of pathological lies. The study involved 110 volunteers, half of whom agreed to stop lying, and the other half did not receive any instructions. After 10 weeks, the group that lied less often had 54% fewer mental complaints (such as stress or anxiety) and 56% fewer physical health problems (such as headaches or digestive problems).

What's the bottom line?

In addition to short-term stress and discomfort,living dishonestly is likely to take its toll on health. According to a 2015 review article, persistent lies are linked to a number of negative health effects, including high blood pressure, increased heart rate, vasoconstriction, and increased levels of stress hormones in the blood.

Other studies show that long-termthe effects can be minimal, as it seems that the more we do this, the more comfortable it is to lie. In other words, we develop an anxious tolerance for lying.

Brain imaging experiments conducted byTali Sharot of University College London, show that the brain adapts to dishonest behavior. Participants demonstrated decreased activity of their limbic system, as they spoke more lies, supporting the idea that each new lie makes it easier for the body to do it as usual. The brain is great at adapting. However, this is not always useful.

If lying is a part of your daily life (and, frankly, it probably is), then it will be difficult to simply stop.

To get rid of pathological lies, you needtime. Tell yourself that you want to be more honest and make a conscious effort to cut down on your lies. Think twice before answering a question. Can you not answer it? Is there a way to answer it and omit the truth?

Another great way to controla pathological lie - spending time with people who value the truth. Having friends who prefer to hear the truth and encourage you to speak the truth can really be a motivating factor. And if all else fails ... think about your health.

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