The Brain Adapts To Lying; There May Be Advantages To Telling A Fib

As the adage goes, practice makes perfect, and according to research, this may also be true for lying. Past studies have shown the more people lie and get away with it, the less of an adverse effect it has on their brain, so they feel less guilty about it. However, while lying is generally immoral, there are actually some instances where telling a fib may be beneficial.

Last October, a study published in Nature found that the brain can adapt to dishonesty, making it easier to repeat dishonest behavior in the future. Dishonesty causes a natural negative reaction in an area of the brain known as the amygdala, which controls guilt. However, each time we lie and get away with it, the negative response in the amygdala weakens, and as a result we feel less guilty about lying, The Independent reported. While the study did not focus specifically on infidelity, the researchers suggested that these results may ring true for dishonesty in relationships.

Read: Psychopath Definition May Be Different Than You Thought: 7 Facts About Psychopaths

“The idea would be the first time we commit adultery we feel bad about it. But the next time we feel less bad and so on, with the result that we can commit adultery to a greater extent,” Neil Garrett, a co-author of the paper told Elite Daily. “With serial cheaters, it could be the case that they initially felt bad about cheating, but have cheated so much they’ve adapted to their ways and simply don’t feel bad about cheating any more.”

pinocchio While the human brain naturally tries to avoid lying, there may be advantages to overriding this reflex. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

In summary, the paper warned of the dangers of little white lies, suggesting that repeated behavior could easily give way to deeper, more harmful lies. However, Garrett admitted to Elite Daily that not all serial liars are the same. Some may simply have psychopathic tendencies and never felt guilty about lying and cheating in the first place.

Individuals with psychopathic personalities have little to no regard for others, and are unable to feel natural guilt. In addition, these individuals are also skilled actors, which means that even though they may not feel guilt, they can note this emotion in others and mimic it. However, what some may see as a character flaw, psychopaths use to their advantage and lie as a way to better themselves. For example, according to CNN, many psychopaths find great success in the business world, law, media, and sales using their ability to lie and manipulate others.

Even for those without psychopathic personalities, there can be some benefits to lying, particularly lying to yourself. For example, The Wall Street Journal reported that believing you are more talented or intelligent than you really are can help influence and win over others, which in turn may lead to our own success. While researchers aren’t entirely sure why we lie to ourselves, they hypothesize it may have an evolutionary advantage and be an unconscious way to boost our own self-esteem.

While this doesn't support the idea that we should lie to others to get ahead in life, it does show the depths the human psyche may go in order to get ahead. 

Source: Garrett N, Lazzaro SC, Ariely D, Sharot T. The Brain Adapts To Dishonesty. Nature . 2017

See Also:

How Lying Affects The Human Brain

Why Do People Lie? Your Brain May Have Little Control Over Moral Compass

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