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Neuroimaging suggests that truthfulness requires no act of will for honest people
Date:7/13/2009

on wasn't shared in advance of the outcome. This gave the participants the opportunity to lie and say that they had correctly predicted the coin toss to win the money.

The researchers assessed the honesty of the individuals based on whether their number of correct responses was statistically feasible. Individuals who reported improbably high levels of accuracy were classified as dishonest, and participants reporting statistically feasible levels of accuracy were classified as honest. The researchers emphasize that the labels "honest" and "dishonest" describe only these individuals' behavior in the experiment and need not characterize their behavior more generally.

Using fMRI, Greene found that the honest individuals displayed little to no additional brain activity when reporting their prediction of the coin toss. However, the dishonest participants' brains were most active in control-related brain regions when they chose not to lie. These control-related brain regions include the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, and previous research has shown that these regions are active when an individual is asked to lie.

While previous research has examined the brain activity of subjects who are told to lie for the purpose of a study, this is the first study to examine brain activity of people telling actual lies.

This study is also the first to examine instances of truth-telling among individuals who were otherwise dishonest, and the neural activity present when they chose whether or not to lie. Greene notes that there was an important distinction between the brain activity when the honest participants told the truth, and when the dishonest participants told the truth.

"When the honest people leave money on the table, you don't see anything special or extra going on in their brains at all," says Greene. "Whereas, when the dishonest people leave money on the table, that's when you saw the most robu
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Contact: Amy Lavoie
amy_lavoie@harvard.edu
617-496-9982
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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