People seem to feel more satisfied when they receive a reward for telling the truth rather than for telling a lie, according to the results of two neural imaging studies.
“Our findings together show that people typically find truth-telling to be more rewarding than lying in different types of deceptive situations,” says Professor Kang Lee.
The findings are based on two studies of Chinese participants using a new neuroimaging method called near-infrared spectroscopy. The studies are among the first to address the question of whether lying makes people feel better or worse than telling the truth.
The studies explored two different types of deception. In first-order deception, the recipient does not know the deceiver is lying. In second-order deception, the deceivers are fully aware that the recipient knows their intention, such as bluffing in poker.
The researchers were surprised to find that a liar’s cortical reward system was more active when a reward was gained through truth-telling than through lying. This was true in both types of deception.
Researchers also found that in both types of deception, telling a lie produced greater brain activations than telling the truth in the frontal lobe, suggesting lying is cognitively more taxing than truth-telling and uses more neural resources.
The researchers hope this study will advance understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying lying, a ubiquitous and frequent human behavior, and help to diagnose pathological liars who may have different neural responses when lying or telling the truth.
The team was composed of researchers from Zhejiang Normal University, China; East China Normal University, China; Beijing Jiaotong University, China; and the University of Toronto.
Source: University of Toronto