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The brain adapts to dishonesty

Garrett, N; Lazzaro, SC; Ariely, D; Sharot, T; (2016) The brain adapts to dishonesty. Nature Neuroscience , 19 (12) pp. 1727-1732. 10.1038/nn.4426. Green open access

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Abstract

Dishonesty is an integral part of our social world, influencing domains ranging from finance and politics to personal relationships. Anecdotally, digressions from a moral code are often described as a series of small breaches that grow over time. Here we provide empirical evidence for a gradual escalation of self-serving dishonesty and reveal a neural mechanism supporting it. Behaviorally, we show that the extent to which participants engage in self-serving dishonesty increases with repetition. Using functional MRI, we show that signal reduction in the amygdala is sensitive to the history of dishonest behavior, consistent with adaptation. Critically, the extent of reduced amygdala sensitivity to dishonesty on a present decision relative to the previous one predicts the magnitude of escalation of self-serving dishonesty on the next decision. The findings uncover a biological mechanism that supports a 'slippery slope': what begins as small acts of dishonesty can escalate into larger transgressions.

Type: Article
Title: The brain adapts to dishonesty
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/nn.4426
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn.4426
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. The final publication is available at Nature Neuroscience via http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn.4426.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Neurosciences, Neurosciences & Neurology, Prefrontal Cortex, Human Amygdala, Neuroimaging Data, Slippery Slope, Emotion, Activation, Deception, Habituation, Corruption, Honest
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1540243
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