253 Escalating Dishonesty

Based on research Garrett, Neil, Lazzaro, S.C., Ariely, Dan & Sharot, Tali. (2016) written by Juanita N Baker, Ph.D.

Does lying promote further lying? And does it escalate into more serious dishonesties?

MRI imaging can detect emotional responses by indicating stronger activity in the amygdala when individuals have potent emotional experiences. Using MRI imaging, researchers had participants advise an individual about the amount of money in a glass jar filled with pennies. The participants knew whether their dishonesty about the amount of money in the jar was self-serving and benefited or not their advisee, or would be self-harming and benefit the advisee alone. Unbeknownst to the participants, the researcher could identify the extent of their dishonesty.

Results showed clear evidence of escalation in self-serving dishonesty. The magnitude of dishonesty got larger and larger as the trials progressed. Dishonesty was driven both by considerations for self and others but its escalation was driven only by whether dishonesty benefited or hurt the self. As dishonesty progressed, the brain responsiveness (as the MRI indicated) reduced or accommodated to the dishonesty. They adapted to being dishonest. People became less emotional or concerned about lying.

Beware of the first desire to tell a lie, make a cover-up, or act dishonestly as these self-serving acts are likely to grow overtime.


Garrett, Neil, Lazzaro, S.C., Ariely, Dan & Sharot, Tali. (2016). The brain adapts to dishonesty. Nature Neuroscience. 19,1727–1732:  doi:10.1038/nn.4426

Show More
Back to top button