The more we study human behavior, the more the patterns become clear. When we do something good, we give ourselves credit. When we do something bad, we search for excuses. Our lives are not based on the truth, but an understanding of the truth, which helps us function in the world. We have two systems of thinking. One system helps us see the world and make decisions that are in our self-interest. The other system, creates stories about the actions we take. We are a walking contradiction – we value the truth and tell lies. That is part of who we are.
The following article describe this paradox in detail.
An age old question is being addressed using modern techniques. When an individual lies, are there detectable differences in their behavior? Or in this case, are there detectable differences in their brain activity? (Yes, you need to have an MRI machine handy). Well, it all depends. Brain activity does change when people lie, but this happens when the person being interrogated believes that technology can be used to detect deception (similar to what happens during a polygraph test). In real life, like when you cannot place your spouse in an MRI machine and ask them questions, detecting deception is extremely difficult to do (see,detecting deception).
Children start lying at a very early age. New research is trying to determine exactly when children use deception to conceal the truth. To do this, children are asked to play a game with a researcher. During the game, children are told not to look at a toy that has been placed behind them. As planned, the researcher becomes distracted, giving the children a chance to peek at the toy. After breaking the rules, the children are asked if they looked at the toy. What does the research reveal?
“In summary, we demonstrated for the first time experimentally that children begin to tell lies as young as 2 years of age, but most 2-year-olds are still highly honest. Within a 1-year span, children become more inclined to lie about their transgression.” The full study can be found here.