Previous studies, according to King-Casas, were unable to control for an important distinction.
"In past studies, participants are typically instructed by the experimenter to lie or be honest. There's no consequence for lying; the subject is just complying," said King-Casas. "One of the real strengths of our study is that we're able to see how a person's tradeoffs change when we add in responsibility."
Another strength is the measurable tradeoff when will an honest person decide the benefit is worth the lie?
"We manipulated the costs and benefits of honesty to quantify the tipping point for each person," said Chiu. "We picked tough dilemmas where, for example, telling a lie might harm the other player one cent, whereas being honest will cost you $20. And you might decide that being seen as an honest person is worth more than $20, so you won't lie even though it costs you, or you might decide that one cent of harm isn't so bad."
The study sheds light on the neuroscientific basis and broader nature of honesty. Moral philosophers and cognitive psychologists have had longstanding, contrasting hypotheses about the mechanisms governing the tradeoff between honesty and self-interest.
The "Grace" hypothesis, suggests that people are innately honest and have to control honest impulses if they want to profit. The "Will" hypothesis holds that self-interest is our automatic response.
"The prefrontal cortex is key to controlling our behavior and helps to override our natural impulses to be either honest or self-interested," King-Casas said. "Knowing this, we can test whether 'Grace' or 'Will' is dominant. By including participants with lesions in the prefrontal cortex, we were able to test whether honesty requires us to actively resist self-interest in which case disrupting the prefrontal cortex would reduce the influence of honesty preferences or whether we are automatically predispose
|Contact: Paula Brewer Byron|