Psychopaths are much better at learning to lie than the rest of us, new research finds.
It is a natural capacity just waiting to be tapped.
The research compared people with high and low psychopathic traits.
The results showed that psychopaths learned to lie quicker.
Dr Tatia Lee, study co-author, said:
“The stark contrast between individuals with high and low levels of psychopathic traits in lying performance following two training sessions is remarkable, given that there were no significant differences in lying performance between the two groups prior to training.”
Dr Robin Shao, the study’s first author, said:
“High psychopathy is characterized by untruthfulness and manipulativeness but the evidence so far was not clear on whether high-psychopathic individuals in the general population tend to lie more or better than others.
Our findings provide evidence that people with high psychopathic traits might just be better at learning how to lie.”
Participants in the study looked at photos and then were sometimes told to lie about whether they had seen the person before.
Reaction times and brain scans evaluated their performance.
Dr Lee said:
“During lying, the ‘true’ information needs to be suppressed and reversed.
Thus, lying requires a series of processes in the brain including attention, working memory, inhibitory control and conflict resolution which we found to be reduced in individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits.
By contrast, in individuals with low levels of psychopathic traits this lie-related brain activity increased.
The additional ‘effort’ it took their brains to process untruthful responses may be one of the reasons why they didn’t improve their lying speed.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry (Shao et al., 2017).