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Neuroscientists Show How Tiny Fibs Snowball Into Big Lies

By Amina Khan
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Can a small lie lead to a bigger fib? Researchers suggest that may be the case and it may be biological. Scientists suspect this has to do with a biological process known as “emotional adaptation”, where over time the brain responds less and less strongly to a repeated stimulus.

Los Angeles Times

A little dishonesty goes a long way. Scientists who studied the brain activity of people who told small lies to benefit themselves found that these fibs appeared to pave the way to telling whoppers later.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, demonstrate how self-serving lies can escalate and offer a window into the processes in the brain at work.

It’s commonly held wisdom that small transgressions often lead to bigger and bigger ones, study co-author Tali Sharot of University College London said in a news briefing.

“Whether it’s evading tax, infidelity, doping in sports, making up data in science, or financial fraud, deceivers often recall how small acts of dishonesty snowballed over time and they suddenly found themselves committing quite large crimes,” Sharot said.

The researchers suspected this had to do with a biological process known as emotional adaptation, where over time the brain responds less and less strongly to a repeated stimulus. The first time you put on a perfume, for example, you smell it clearly; on the 10th day, you might hardly detect it. The amount of perfume hasn’t changed, but your brain’s response has.

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