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Psychologist: lying is necessary for maintaining good social relations

02.03.2012 History&Culture, Society

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Lying is one of the most important social skills absolutely necessary for maintaining good relations. Studies show that lying comes more easily to women, but unlike the men they more often deviate from the truth to please others.

"Intuitively, we know that different people have different levels of ability to lie. With some people it is immediately obvious that they do not tell the truth, but there are also people who are quite good at lying" - told PAP Marcel Falkiewicz from M. Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology PAS in Warsaw, graduate student at the Laboratory of Psychophysiology. The scientists uses the grant awarded by the National Science Centre to find out who can be a good liar, and what factors determine that some are proficient liars, and others seem unable to lie.

Social psychologists agree that lying is a skill we simply need to be able to function properly in society. Examples of people who do not see the need for lying, or can not lie, are those affected by Asperger syndrome. "They have impairment of certain social skills, and one of the most important traits is that they are painfully sincere. As a result, their social life is very difficult" - explained the scientist.

People affected by this disorder are telling the truth even when they are not being asked for an opinion. When a friend with a bad haircut asks such person for an opinion, he or she will definitely not hear a compliment. "It is not hard to imagine that their relationships automatically suffer" - noted Falkiewicz.

There was also the case of a seller, whose work required stretching some facts. Unfortunately, close to the amygdala ( part of the brain activated when we experience fear and strong emotions) he had an epileptic centre. "When he lied to his customers, he experienced light seizures. As time went by, his work suffered as customers started seeing that something wrong was happening to him. His seizures were the neurological equivalent of Pinocchio’s nose" - described the scholar.

"Actually, we can not point to a particular area of the brain that is responsible for telling lies. Our knowledge in this area is still fairly limited" - admitted Falkiewicz. He explained that the first work on the brain correlates of lies was published in 2001. Only methods such as magnetic resonance imaging allowed scientists to look into the human brain when a person was lying, and see which structures would activate.

Studies refer to the frontal lobes as an area that is most important for generating lies. "Many of the cognitive and emotional processes associated with the process of lying are related to the activity of the frontal lobes" - said the scientist.

The study of convicts sentenced for participating in financial scams which required decepting large groups of people showed that neural connections within the frontal lobes, called axons, of these convicts were significantly stronger compared to other people. There were much more of these connections within the frontal lobes.

Scientists noticed that lying is "impeded" by damages of connections between the so-called the basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex. This is why lying is difficult to those affected by Parkinson's disease, for which damage to the basal ganglia is typical.

According to scientists, women find it easier to lie, than men. "This can be explained by greater social and verbal skills. In situations where there is a need to lie, a woman can handle the situation better. She generates lies faster, more efficiently, her lie will be more credible and more appealing to the recipient"- said Falkiewicz. However, women more often use lies to please someone else. Men tend to lie in order to present themselves in a better light.

According to the scientist, it is not easy to catch someone in a lie. The canon includes scratching head or looking away during the conversation. "The new, yet unpublished studies show that it also depends on the type of personality. Extroverts send different signals than introverts when lying" - said the scientist.

Even a polygraph test, commonly called "lie detector", does not automatically mean detecting lies. "Based on a polygraph test we can give an opinion whether the person has knowledge of a specific event. It is a method for finding traces of emotion connected with the possession of knowledge" - explained Marcel Falkiewicz.

He said that, in addition to questions relating to a particular event, the technician must ask neutral questions and questions that cause an emotional response, but are not connected with the test situation. Only comparing these results may help determine the truth of the event.

Although the polygraph measures parameters, which seem beyond our control, such as skin-galvanic reaction, the change in conductivity of the skin associated with sweating, heart rate and breathing, with the proper training the device can be fooled.

"Intelligence to train their agents to trick polygraphs. It can be done, for example, by inducing the body's response to a neutral question. It is enough to have a pin in the shoe and with every, even neutral question, stick it into the skin" - said Falkiewicz. But a lot depends on the experience of the person conducting a test. Technician with sufficient knowledge and experience will not be so easily fooled.

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland, Ewelina Krajczyńska

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Photo: PAP/Lech Muszyński

Photo: PAP/Lech Muszyński

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