When was the last time you told a lie? Most people don’t really think about it, but lying has become a natural process in everyday life. You might not know it, but the average person lies 4-8 times per day, which although a small number, only accounts for big lies, and not for the little white lies you say every so often. However, it’s sometimes quite difficult to keep up with all the lies that you’ve told.
Whether creatively thinking up a lie, or sticking with a false alibi, deception is hard work. The brain actually uses a lot of mental energy and mental effort when lying, in comparison to simply telling the truth. A researcher from Northwestern University explains why.
Think about it this way: honesty is our default mode. Words simply come out of our mouth without even thinking about it, as it’s stored in memory. However, when lying, you have to inhibit the urge to be honest, and at the same time use your brain creatively to concoct a lie that is remotely believable.
Students from the university researched this particular topic, experimenting on the large pool of college students present on campus. The experiment involved volunteers answering “yes” and “no” to a set of questions regarding their personal information. Some volunteers were clearly instructed to lie, while others were told to reply honestly.
Apparently, and as expected, those who had been requested to lie had slower response times, and with imaging equipment, it was shown that there was a lot of activity going on in the brain. However, as they were told to lie again, and to start memorizing these lies, the activity in the brain went down, as well as the time they needed to respond.
This hinted that lying does not really work as most people originally thought. When you have a lie memorized, it doesn’t really take that much of a toll on your brain. It does, but not as much as you would think. Therefore, compulsive liars who already have a set of lies memorized might not suffer as some less-chronic liars do.
Hu and colleagues continually test brain activation patterns to this day, though, as they believe that even those who have memorized lies have certain cue words that allow them to discern what is truthful from absolute garbage. Only time will tell, but the research they’re going through seems extremely compelling.