Fib­bing is ef­fort­less for psy­chos

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

PSYCHOPATHS might give them­selves away by how quickly and eas­ily they can lie.

Sci­en­tists say they show less ac­tiv­ity in the brain when pro­cess­ing emo­tions, sug­gest­ing they find it eas­ier to sup­press the truth and be de­ceit­ful.

Psy­chopa­thy is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with crim­i­nals but many peo­ple in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion show psy­cho­pathic ten­den­cies. Sci­en­tists at Hong Kong Univer­sity tested 52 stu­dents who clas­si­fied as hav­ing ei­ther high or low lev­els of psy­chopa­thy, which is a per­son­al­ity dis­or­der char­ac­terised by a lack of em­pa­thy or feel­ings of guilt.

They were shown pho­to­graphs of fa­mil­iar and un­fa­mil­iar faces and asked whether they knew the per­son in the pic­ture. When asked to lie, both sets of peo­ple took longer to re­spond. But af­ter they were given in­struc­tions from re­searchers on how to re­spond, the psy­cho­pathic vol­un­teers be­came much quicker at ly­ing.

The par­tic­i­pants un­der­went brain scans dur­ing test­ing and those with psy­cho­pathic ten­den­cies, af­ter be­ing taught how to lie, were less de­tectable. Ly­ing re­quires a lot of work in the brain, in re­press­ing the truth, while ma­nip­u­lat­ing work­ing mem­ory to come up with a lie.

The study sug­gests psychopaths, who are bet­ter at cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing but worse at emo­tional pro­cess­ing, do not have to work so hard to re­solve a moral con­flict.

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