Psychology :: Deception as contextual decision making

When is a lie not a lie? The question of how people lie and how to detect lies is of great interest to both scientists and the public. Deceptive behaviour involves risktaking, understanding the perspectives of others, their intentions and goals, as well as assessing and adjusting information on the basis of their reactions.

That reflective loop is based on building up trust and reputation. We have to build up trust before we try to deceive.

A recent experiment?s novelty lies in the paradigm. The study examined how people cope with deception in a real-life social interaction in which two players tried to deceive each other. The experience of deceiving others and being deceived by others seems to be processed very differently in terms of emotions and mental effort.

Deciding that somebody has just lied to us evoked robust activity in areas previously associated with processing reward and revenge, during trust and reciprocity games. Paradoxically, that implies that we are very concerned not to be deceived although we may do exactly the same to others. The fun part of deception lies in bluffing; this elicits the thrill of risk and anticipation of pleasure without the need to lie.

Our behavioral results demonstrate that deception and detection of deception are highly context dependent processes, which relate truth and lies in terms of trust and risk taking. This is reflected in the neuroimaging results that show that the brain processes the same action differently varying with context.

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