We all do it sometimes, even though we know it’s wrong.

But here’s the problem with lying: Research shows that the more you lie, the easier it gets, and the more likely you are to do it again.

“The dangerous thing about lying is people don’t understand how the act changes us,” said Dan Ariely, behavioral psychologist at Duke University.

Lying is in the news this week after President Trump’s longtime lawyer testified that Trump had directed him to pay hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.

The courtroom admission not only could implicate Trump in a crime; it also potentially exposed months of denials by Trump and his aides as lies.

Psychologists have documented children lying as early as age 2. Some experts even consider lying a developmental milestone, like crawling and walking, because it requires sophisticated planning, attention and the ability to see a situation from someone else’s perspective to effectively manipulate them. But for most people, lying gets limited as we develop a sense of morality and the ability to self-regulate.

A 2010 study on the prevalence of lying in America found that in a given 24-hour period, most adults reported not telling any lies. Almost half the lies recorded in the study could be attributed to just 5 percent of participants. And most people avoided lying when they could, turning to deception only when the truth was troublesome.

Harvard cognitive neuroscientist Joshua Greene said for most of us, lying takes work. In studies, he presented study subjects with a chance to deceive for monetary gain while examining their brains in a functional MRI machine, which maps blood flow to active parts of the brain.

Some people told the truth instantly and instinctively. But others opted to lie, and they showed increased activity in their frontal parietal control network, which is involved in difficult or complex thinking. This suggests that they were deciding between truth and dishonesty – and ultimately opting for the latter.

For a follow-up analysis, he found that people whose neural reward centers were more active when they won money were also more likely to be among the group of liars – suggesting that lying may have to do with the inability to resist temptation.

Some believe truth-telling is a social norm we internalize, or a result of conflict in our brains between the things we want and the positive vision of ourselves we strive to maintain.


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