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Study Finds Little Lies Lead To Bigger Ones (go.com) 187

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Telling little fibs leads down a slippery slope to bigger lies -- and our brains adapt to escalating dishonesty, which makes deceit easier, a new study shows. Neuroscientists at the University College London's Affective Brain Lab put 80 people in scenarios where they could repeatedly lie and get paid more based on the magnitude of their lies. They said they were the first to demonstrate empirically that people's lies grow bolder the more they fib. The researchers then used brain scans to show that our mind's emotional hot spot -- the amygdala -- becomes desensitized or used to the growing dishonesty, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. And during this lying, brain scans that show blood supply and activity at the amygdala decrease with increasing lies, said study co-author and lab director Tali Sharot. "The more we lie, the less likely we are to have an emotional response" -- say, shame or guilt -- "that accompanies it," Sharot said. Garrett said he suspects similar escalation factors happen in the "real world," which would include politics, infidelity and cheating, but he cautioned that this study was done in a controlled lab setting so more research would be needed to apply it to other situations. The study found that there is a segment of people who don't lie and don't escalate lies, but Sharot and Garrett weren't able to determine how rare those honest people are. It also found that people lie more when it benefits both them and someone else than when they just profit alone.
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Study Finds Little Lies Lead To Bigger Ones

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  • next new study 80% of congress lies!

    • by x0ra ( 1249540 )
      Everybody lies, because telling the truth is not socially accepted. That being, we should continue to "think" we're being truthful...
    • 80% of Congress lying leaves a little over 100 elected Represenatives and Senators that don't lie.

      You really think there are that many? I don't. Not an ice cream cone's chance in hell.

  • Researchers discover that people become better and more comfortable at activity with more practice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by HBI ( 604924 )

      Tell that to some of my exes about sex...they got worse with time.

      • Maybe they figure out that what Uncle HBI was doing to them was just pain wrong.
        • by HBI ( 604924 )

          I do have a kind of dirty avuncular thing going on. I think in general I just get bored of their shit, though.

          Sex is an attention getting scheme for many women, and when it stops working they lose interest. It stops working because when the hormones get satisfied, I have geekery to pay attention to. Far more interesting than most women.

  • But what is a lie? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueCoder ( 223005 ) on Monday October 24, 2016 @11:01PM (#53144075)

    I consider myself to be on the Autism Spectrum scale. When I tell stories I want to be detailed; but I have learned that people don't want the full story and prefer summaries. Summaries so short that I more or less have to reinvent the scenario in order to get my point or question out and paid attention to. Since it's not the complete truth; it's a lie. But I want to tell the complete truth but people don't want to hear all the details and angles. It's a profound discrepancy in human communication that I have adapted to; the lie that communicates the essential but not exact truth. Is it a lie when people want/expect you to actually do it?

    Lying isn't black and white. You have to interpret how much and what information a person is looking for. You are then lying only when you know what information a person is looking for and if they would care about the inaccuracy of the statement.

    • But what is a lie?

      In the case of recalled stories, it's adding or withholding information in a way that will mislead the other party into believing something that is not representative of your perception of the situation.

      Summaries so short that I more or less have to reinvent the scenario in order to get my point or question out and paid attention to.
      ...
      Lying isn't black and white. You have to interpret how much and what information a person is looking for.

      It seems like you are incapable of discerning what information is truly relevant to a story because I have never had to "reinvent the scenario" regardless of the story. Alternatively, it's entirely possible your stories are simply not of interest to others.

      • It seems like you are incapable of discerning what information is truly relevant to a story because I have never had to "reinvent the scenario" regardless of the story. Alternatively, it's entirely possible your stories are simply not of interest to others.

        That was somewhat uncharitable of you. BlueCoder, the GP, is openly talking about his/her difficulty in telling people things, and you basically say "or maybe you're just boring". I have a similar behaviour pattern to BlueCoder, in that once I start explaining something to someone, I want to be complete. It becomes a source of frustration if I'm not allowed to finish. Unlike BlueCoder, I don't feel like I've lied when I don't get to finish; rather I feel like the other person doesn't understand me, and it's

        • by anegg ( 1390659 )
          You can include me in the group as well. I usually want to make sure that I have fairly represented a situation and all points of view about the situation so that that the listener can come to their own conclusions and not be led into a possibly false conclusion by the way I'm relating something. I'm pretty good at doing root cause analysis, but suck at telling stories or relating anecdotes that people actually want to listen to.
    • Is it a lie when people want/expect you to actually do it?

      Yes. Especially when you are assuming that people want/expect you to do it. Maybe you are amazingly accurate at reading the situation and really do know that that is what people want/expect, but are you always going to be right?

      Lying isn't black and white

      Yes it is, but the justifications for it are endless.

      You have to interpret how much and what information a person is looking for

      Good communication certainly involves trying to understand how the other parties communicate, but there's a difference between 'lossy compression' and a re-interpretation of the original material that conveys what you think is the

    • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2016 @03:06AM (#53144623)

      I consider myself to be on the Autism Spectrum scale. When I tell stories I want to be detailed; but I have learned that people don't want the full story and prefer summaries. Summaries so short that I more or less have to reinvent the scenario in order to get my point or question out and paid attention to. Since it's not the complete truth; it's a lie. But I want to tell the complete truth but people don't want to hear all the details and angles. It's a profound discrepancy in human communication that I have adapted to; the lie that communicates the essential but not exact truth. Is it a lie when people want/expect you to actually do it?

      Lying isn't black and white. You have to interpret how much and what information a person is looking for. You are then lying only when you know what information a person is looking for and if they would care about the inaccuracy of the statement.

      I agree it is a problem. I did a kind of psychological exercise where we had to pay attention to lying. The wording and precision really mattered. So even to start a sentence with, "Yes but..." was considered a lie, because the "but" negates the "yes" to some degree. It creates a sort of smoke screen, like, he is saying yes, whereas he really means no, and disguising it under the "yes".

      If one learnt to pay attention to when one says "yes but" then one can go on to start to notice other inconsistencies. For example, how easily we invent excuses for things.

      I guess when it comes to summaries, and having to make summaries, the issue may be, does the summary alter the person's response or decision? For example, if I have to meet someone and I arrive late and they are wondering whether to be upset with me, does my summary say: "I messed up, I'm late, I'm sorry" which leads them to the feeling that it was my fault, or is my summary worded to make a different effect: "I left on time, awful traffic" which leaves out the detail that I stopped for a grande latte mocha with raspberry syrup on the way?

      In other words, does that detail matter? The issue is that most adults lie by telling the 95% of the story which is true, and leaving out the 5% detail which would land them in trouble. So if that detail is important, then it needs to be said.

      • Yes but... um...;p

        I've found a lot of times when yes but is used I am fully in agreement with the statement as stated. Yet when more variables are added, the situation is no longer true. A narrow point of view can be fully accurate, while a larger perspective makes things no longer work the same.

        For example the general held belief of 1+1=2, which is true in a majority of real world situations. BUT in a programming language that uses floating point numbers where 1 cannot be represented precisely

        • by Bongo ( 13261 )

          No but :-) see you explained and made clear why you added the "but". And the dictionary definition allows for that usage.

          A problem is when people use "but" as a quick way to divert from something, as part of a smoke screen.

          Yes I'd love to meet up, awesome, really great, that'll be fantastic, but not today.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      I have the same problem.

      I took to highlighting emails for "Short version" and "Long version". The only people who bother with the long version are the people with an axe-to-grind with what the email is about, people who are similarly autistic-like (yeah, I'm definitely on there somewhere too), and those with an interest in the actual fine details of that particular area.

      But I work in schools so I can tell you now that, however hypocritical, the entirety of education is set up as "lies to children", in fact

      • To be honest, when I'm asked to summarise, e.g. in meetings, I struggle immensely because I don't see that you can sum up anything that easily without just providing opinion rather than fact. "So what's best, X or Y?" "Well...". I can give an impartial, fact-based, long answer. But if you want one or the other it will be opinion unless the answer is blindingly obvious. And your opinion may differ.

        The thing is that the simple answer is fact, not opinion, as well. If someone wants a short answer and only a short answer, then they are implicitly trusting that you are aware of the detailed facts and are trusting you to make the decision for them. And that you can back up that decision if needed. Sometimes they will disagree with you and that's when the why? comes next, but if they agree with you, a lot of time has been saved not going over the details.

        As to trusting opinions, if I've been working with

        • by anegg ( 1390659 )
          Well said (I don't have moderator points).
        • by ledow ( 319597 )

          We're not talking about every single answer.

          We're talking about when people say, in a meeting, "Well, can you justify that?" or "Why do we have to do that?" where the simple answer isn't enough and you're explicitly asked for more. And then I provide simple and complex answers simultaneously, but often at a later date (because opposite me is a pseudo-expert I respect who disagrees and his boss who knows nothing and won't understand the full thing).

          At that point of asking, "normal" (non-autistic-trait) peop

    • I consider myself to be on the Autism Spectrum scale. When I tell stories I want to be detailed; but I have learned that people don't want the full story and prefer summaries.

      It is time to dispense with that diagnosis of yourself, friend, and begin to understand that the people who 'prefer' summaries are the aberration and your behavior is the natural rule. It comes down to their simple respect for you and their ability to concentrate and follow your story, at what ever pace you tell it. I say pace and not level of detail because if you hurry yourself to relate details, you'll begin to stumble talking, and even a careful listener will stumble hearing. Be true to your own manner

    • When I tell stories I want to be detailed; but I have learned that people don't want the full story and prefer summaries. Summaries so short that I more or less have to reinvent the scenario in order to get my point or question out and paid attention to.

      No. If you are having this problem, either autism is a lot more subtle than I thought, or you are just bad at summarizing. I have noticed that most people are very bad at this. I am not very good at it myself; I have a tendency to give a whole lot more detail than is absolutely necessary, which turns people off.

      Since it's not the complete truth; it's a lie

      That is not how it works. Here's how it actually works: let's say you didn't do something because of some other thing, which was foisted upon you by some other person. When someone asks you what happ

      • No. If you are having this problem, either autism is a lot more subtle than I thought, or you are just bad at summarizing. I have noticed that most people are very bad at this. I am not very good at it myself; I have a tendency to give a whole lot more detail than is absolutely necessary, which turns people off.

        Detail is such a situational thing. Some folks want to tell you what channel they were watching when the cars collided on the road in front of their place, and what they think of the topless coffee kiosk 2 blocks down the road.

        And then there is the detail I sometimes give when replying to bullshit. Lots of citations. Both methods are annoying - one purposely so.

        Then there is the deep detail I can get into with some friends (possibly somewhere on that spectrum) where we just put our minds on cruise cont

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Lying goes further than what people are looking for. It is more about the intend to mislead the person. Even when not telling the truth does not mean you are lying.

      e.g. I take the train to work each day and the train takes (if there are no delays) 22 minutes. If somebody asks me how long it takes I say "half an hour" most of the times. Even if I know that the time is not correct and I assume the person know that it won't be 30 minutes exactly, I would not see this as a lie.
      Now if I know that the person need

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      I consider myself to be on the Autism Spectrum scale. When I tell stories I want to be detailed; but I have learned that people don't want the full story and prefer summaries.

      The length of detail you tend provide by default in communication in general has nothing to do with being an indicator of Autism. It typically has more to do with personality profiles specifically related to the DISC profile. The higher you are on the D scale the more default preference you have for short, abrupt communication. The higher you are on the C scale, the more you prefer longer, detailed communication. This is why people tend to have communication problems both firmly believing something is w

    • Here are some key phrases for you to use: "roughly speaking", "approximately", "for most practical purposes", "usually", "often", "overall", "in most cases". If you are not attempting to mislead, it's enough to say that your statement has conditions or exceptions. It isn't necessary to say what those are if you're not asked.
    • When I tell stories I want to be detailed; but I have learned that people don't want the full story and prefer summaries. Summaries so short that I more or less have to reinvent the scenario in order to get my point or question out and paid attention to.

      Heh. I have never heard anyone communicate this problem before but I run across it all the time too. Fascinating. :)

  • Makes some sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday October 24, 2016 @11:13PM (#53144103) Homepage

    This might possibly make some sense of my general view that I have about lying, which is that it's not quite as simple as "honest people" and "dishonest people". I'm sure there are some people who are truly dishonest, in that they've thought very clearly about what the truth is and are being intentionally deceptive. However, I know a number of people where I'd be more inclined to say that they're just not really thinking about it.

    That might sound weird or a little nonsensical, but what I mean is, there's a certain level of mental activity to "be honest". It's not just about the courage to voice your opinion, but also whether you go through a certain kind of thought process. To give a common example, if you ask your coworker, "How are you doing?" there's a decent chance that person will say, "Good" without even thinking about it. They might be miserable, but it's not necessarily an intentional deception. Maybe you're just being polite, or you don't want to share. Or maybe you're just responding because that's the proper conventional response to the question.

    To give a slightly more complex example, if I ask what your favorite movie is, you might just say "Pulp Fiction" even though that's not your favorite movie. Maybe it's a movie that came to mind that you liked. Maybe it was a movie that your decided was your favorite movie well over a decade ago, and you've just used that as your answer when people ask, even though there are other movies you like better. Or maybe you said "Pulp Fiction" just because you thought it was a good answer that other people would agree with.

    I used to think that it was as simple as "being honest" or "being dishonest", but I've realized over the years that a lot of times, we just end up giving whatever answer is quick and easy, or the safe answer that won't cause trouble. Some people do it more than others, and I've known a few people for whom communication isn't really about conveying information, but more about social maneuvering. And I don't even mean that it's malicious, since it may be as innocent as just saying whatever will get you to like them and make everyone get along. I think it's not even necessarily an intentional deception, but instead it's more like they're not even thinking about the truth content of their answer in the context of "true" or "false", but more like "achieves the desired effect" or "doesn't achieve the desired effect".

    So I'm rambling a little, but I wonder if the amygdala has a role in the evaluation of truth content. If my general thought is correct, it'd be reasonable to think that there's some part of the brain with is being under-used in people who "end up giving whatever answer is quick and easy".

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I think there are some areas where there is only opinion and not truth -- is Pulp Fiction a great movie? There's no objective measurement of its quality, so in many ways the truth of that statement can be defined by a group and stating its your favorite isn't necessarily a falsehood if its collectively agreed to be a great movie.

      I also think people in general don't have a lot of deep reflection skills, so even they don't know how they're feeling. They don't even know the answer or they're not really able

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      If you call your mom or grandmom or great aunt or somebody else who has no idea how a computer works, never ask "Do you see button XXX" because the anser will be yes, regardless if the system is on or even in the room. The reason for this, I believe, is that we are taught that it is very wrong to give either the wrong answer and say that you do not know anything.

  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Monday October 24, 2016 @11:15PM (#53144119) Journal

    I'm pleased that Slashdot has posted this story because, I'm uh, I'm the author of this study! ... yeah, that's it ... and, and uh, I invented the machine that scanned the subjects' brains! ... and I invented a way to control their brains so that the study supported my hypothesis! ... yeah, that's the ticket ... and they paid me so they could lie even more!!! And then I sent them all to Slashdot to post comments on this thread! Yeah, that's it...

  • Not sure why the researchers behind this study think their findings are unique or somehow specific to lying. The brain is supremely adaptable to learned behavior, stimuli, even physical damage.
  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Monday October 24, 2016 @11:29PM (#53144155)

    You know, where the character is actively rewarded for, and celebrates some 'negative' ethical attribute? Dungeon Keeper, God of War, most action video games, etc.

    Well, if they're paying you money to lie, and more money to lie bigger, then seems to me that's the same dynamic. It's a reward loop, with a context. Doesn't seem to me that this would be any more likely to cause an increase in general preference for lying, than the millions who played Dungeon Keeper being more likely to turn to workplace abuse as a first resort.

    That said, context adds a lot - the classic Stanford Prison experiment and similar studies showed how far context and roles can push people with very little prodding.

    Seems to me, that more thought should be put into what roles we're building for folks, especially with things like the stock market, the legal system, and managerial roles. Unbounded reward loops have a way of being pushed until something really bad breaks, even with 'normal' people.

    • You know, where the character is actively rewarded for, and celebrates some 'negative' ethical attribute?

      Smacking a virtual chicken is not a 'negative ethical attribute' and is very, very distant from 'workplace abuse'.

      There is a difference between the virtual world and the real world. Most people understand that very well.

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      the classic Stanford Prison experiment and similar studies showed how far context and roles can push people with very little prodding.

      You didn't even mention the best part of Philip Zimbardo's work. He wrote a book called The Lucifer Effect and had a TED Talk about his work entitled "The Psychology of Evil": https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]. Warning there are some graphically disturbing images in this talk but the content is absolutely fascinating.

  • spiders (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Monday October 24, 2016 @11:49PM (#53144197)
    Oh what a tangled web we weave

    When first we practice to deceive.

  • The study found that there is a segment of people who don't lie and don't escalate lies, but Sharot and Garrett weren't able to determine how rare those honest people are.

    Should have just asked them, obviously.

  • ... that people who practice a thing and get rewarded for it get better at that thing and do it more often? How bizarre!

  • So they are going off blood flow and activity? That doesn't mean little lies make big lies easier in a emotional or stress sense, just that you are faster at them or more reflexive. I'm so tired of people acting like consciousness is a sum of it's parts.

    also, it was A STUDY in a research hospital. here is the problem, lying in a study is NEVER going to be the same as lying in a organic situation where no one knows but you.

    That is another thing I am tired of, studies in a research office where after

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2016 @03:35AM (#53144681)
    The "I.T. Crowd" did this brilliantly - a lie to justify using the disabled toilet escalated hilariously.
  • If the study had concluded that little lies don't lead to bigger lies then it'd be much harder to justify further research.

  • My current study shows breathing in and out changes oxygen level in the lungs. Revolutionary, no?
  • by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2016 @06:36AM (#53145097)

    I hate to sound like a misanthrope but most humans don't aspire to be moral and ethical beings. Most people out of self interest will "test the waters". If they find they can do something for their own self gain that is of questionable morality and ethics without being detected, most are going to do it.

    If you want to do a thought experiment and find out how true this is, imagine this scenario: You have found a super power that enables you to be completely invisible and undetectable. Be honest with yourself, what would you do with that power? Furthermore, what would you do if the economy went south in such a way that you couldn't feed yourself or your family. I rest my case. Consider this very apt movie quote:

    The Joker: Don't talk like one of them. You're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve.

    That's a good chunk of the human condition. Good luck solving that.

    • That's a good chunk of the human condition. Good luck solving that.

      That's one of the purposes of systems of morality and religion, and parenting.

      My family took a vacation with my wife's best friend's family. Their five (six?) year old was a real piece of work. Constantly disobeying and causing trouble, and his mom was frustrated with him and mentioned his behavioral problems at school, too. She didn't ask me for advice, so I didn't give it, but watching them for that week it was pretty obvious what the issue was: she never punished the kid for lying. Only for things that i

      • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

        That's one of the purposes of systems of morality and religion, and parenting.

        In order to have this conversation productively one must distinguish between the 3 concepts 1) a system of morality, 2) religion and 3) parenting. The only two of these that semi-directly correlated in some way is #1 and #2. However, most religions are not entirely composed of what we would understand as a modern system of morality. For example, apostasy. No one in their right mind is going to consider murdering someone for converting from religion A to B moral.

        Perhaps you might put a strong sense of mo

        • I think the universal thing that we can all agree on is that cooperation is better than division. We should all be able to agree that there is a universal basis for morality that has nothing to do with religion or parenting and it is largely based on cooperation for the benefit of everyone and the reduction of human suffering.

          I disagree with this because you're essentially discussing a collective morality. This leaves room for individual bad action, if it doesn't harm the collective or even helps the collective. Tell a little lie here and there to, in your opinion, "benefit everyone." But how do you know it benefits everyone? Also the capacity for human self-deception is limitless. It's not hard to talk yourself into doing really awful shit "for that greater good" that is really just better for yourself. We have proverbs to warn

          • You may not like traditional religious cultural values because they restrict your behavior, but they worked. They got us here.

            There is a broad range of behaviors in accord with "traditional religious cultural values". Does the ritual human sacrifice of several primitive religions qualify as worthy of continuation because they're part of what "got us here"? Or apply the same question to Muslim clitorectomies.

            Careful removal of bad practices is essential to the improvement of human behavior. Especially import

          • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

            The hurdles in front of that evolving are people that are tightly held onto what I would refer to as out-dated systems. They served a important purpose in the evolution of human systems and cultures, but they are obsolete.

            This is a very arrogant viewpoint and quite dangerous. You may not like traditional religious cultural values because they restrict your behavior, but they worked. They got us here. If you're going to start chucking those values overboard now you better be damn sure the unintended consequences are not catastrophic.

            Read what I said regarding "They got us here". I said religion served a significant purpose at one time and we can respect its cultural significance. A lot of things got us here. We primarily use combustion engine vehicles now instead of horses. We realize the importance of horses and the positive effect they had on economic and agricultural development of our civilization at the time. We also can appreciate Greek Mythology and its cultural significance for Greek Civilization at the time but nobody bel

  • The following (translated) quotation describes this syndrome perfectly.

    "The great masses of the people in the very bottom of their hearts tend to be corrupted rather than consciously and purposely evil ... therefore, in view of the primitive simplicity of their minds, they more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big".

    - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1971; original version 1925

  • A couple of years ago I was in a relationship with a lady who lied throughout our relationship. She told one fairly big lie in the beginning and got caught and I forgave her and gave her another chance. My reward for this was that she continued to lie to me about various things. It just took a lot longer to figure that out. In fact, I'd say that her default position on just about anything was to lie about it. She just had a lot of issues and I guess she was afraid that even the smallest issue would be
  • ...Basil Fawlty could've told you that.

  • They have cornered the market on lying.

    Not sure, but I sure see them being handed mod points with all the modbombing going around.

  • The more people are able to get away with stuff, the more they do it. If you keep getting away with lying, cheating, and dishonest behavior, the more likely you are to test the limits. The more you are able to bull*shit other people, the bigger shovel you try to use. Eventually, this all catches up with you.

  • Lying is one of the hallmarks of a true sociopath.

The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. Seek simplicity and distrust it. -- Whitehead.

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