By Wayne Hoover, CFI

Study shows lying gets easier for those who lie repeatedly!

 A new brain study recently published in Nature Neuroscience focuses on the effects of lying on the amygdala, a small tucked-away part of the brain that processes negative emotions. Using live human volunteers who were incentivized to lie repeatedly, the study was able to show that amygdala activity decreased after the first lie and continued to decrease before and after subsequent lies. This study is reported to be “the first empirical evidence that lying escalates as a result of emotional adaption.”

The study’s findings offer scientific-based evidence of why lying comes so easily to some people while others struggle to tell even a “little white lie.” It seems habitual liars are being let off easy by their amygdala! As a person tells more lies, the brain, in an effort to lessen emotional stress, becomes more and more desensitized to the discomfort initially caused by the act of lying. The study reports that as a result of this lessening of emotional angst, telling more lies becomes easier over time. Study author and director of the Affective Brain Lab, Dr. Tali Sharot, says that the study shows that small lies easily “snowball over time” and that subsequent lies create less negative emotional discomfort.

Small lies lead to bigger lies more easily told.

This study has implications beyond the science of the brain. It can help criminal investigators understand why people being interrogated can lie so believably and with such aplomb. People who regularly operate in the world of crime and navigate illegality with habitual lies have become inured to the emotional discomfort most people feel when they engage in lying. Seasoned liars may have felt badly when they engaged in their initial lie, but over time and through subsequent lies, they no longer feel badly at all. The negative discomfort, usually a natural brain response to lying, is no longer being processed by the amygdala. The study further reports that constant lying can affect brain health and make an individual more susceptible to pathological lying.

As the brain becomes more accepting of lying, the individual’s body reacts less and less to the act of lying and the liar becomes more adept at not exhibiting the usual and observable emotional and behavioral cues normally associated with lying. He no longer turns pale when beginning to lie; she no longer blinks rapidly when fabricating a falsehood. Criminal investigators acknowledge that some people can just “lie through their teeth” without a clue to their uncomfortable feelings about telling that lie, while others may exhibit more obviously their level of concern when lying.

When lying gets easier as the number and intensity of the lies increase, how can interrogators effectively read behavioral cues or facial expressions to extract reliable information?

As people get more comfortable with lying, their brain experiences less discomfort, but emotional cues, though they may be severely diminished, may still leak out in the form of facial expressions or other reactions. Modern science and advanced technology have led to the development of some very effective tools to help “read” the expressions of those who are so very good at lying. Expert training in interpreting subtle, split-second facial expressions can help case investigators and interrogators detect the clues they seek in their goal of obtaining the truth.

Wicklander-Zulawski (WZ) is partnering with renowned psychologist, Dr. David Matsumoto, and Humintell, a research training lab specializing in microexpression, subtle expression and emotion recognition. Humintell was popularized by the hit show on television, Lie to Me, and has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times and TIME magazine. Its training programs have been used by TSA, the Association for Justice, Google, Publix, and other Fortune 500 companies.  Humintell combines state-of-the-art behavioral science with real-world practical experience to train investigators to recognize micro and subtle expressions which often conceal true human emotions.

WZ has partnered with Humintell to support learning modules that train interrogators to detect microexpressions, facial expressions of emotion that occur when someone tries to conceal or repress how they are feeling, even though these expressions may last only a fraction of a second. Sessions range from basic courses for those on tight budgets to advanced, comprehensive courses: MIXTM Lite, MIXTM Original, MIXTM Professional, MIXTM 2, and MIXTM Elite. Humintell also offers training modules under the SubX title that address the detection of subtle facial expressions, expressions of emotion of lower intensity that can occur in a fraction of a second.