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Scientists find possible neurobiological basis for tradeoff between honesty, self-interest
Date:9/2/2014

What's the price of your integrity? Tell the truth; everyone has a tipping point. We all want to be honest, but at some point, we'll lie if the benefit is great enough. Now, scientists have confirmed the area of the brain in which we make that decision.

The result was published online this week in Nature Neuroscience.

"We prefer to be honest, even if lying is beneficial," said Lusha Zhu, the study's lead author and a postdoctoral associate at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, where she works with Brooks King-Casas and Pearl Chiu, who are assistant professors at the institute and with Virginia Tech's Department of Psychology. "How does the brain make the choice to be honest, even when there is a significant cost to being honest?"

Previous studies have shown that brain areas behind the forehead, called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex, become more active during functional brain scanning when a participant is told to lie or to be honest.

But there's no way to know if those parts of the brain are engaged because an individual is lying or because he or she prefers to be honest, King-Casas said.

This time, researchers asked a different question.

"We asked whether there's a switch in the brain that controls the cost and benefit tradeoff between honesty and self-interest," Chiu said. "The answer to this question will help shed light on the nature of honesty and human preferences."

Researchers compared the decisions of healthy participants with decisions made by participants with damaged dorsolateral prefrontal cortices or orbitofrontal cortices.

The team, including scientists from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and the University of California at Berkeley, had volunteers decide bet
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Contact: Paula Brewer Byron
paulabyron@vt.edu
540-526-2027
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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