Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Soc Neurosci. 2014 Jun 30:1-17. [Epub ahead of print]

The motor cost of telling lies: Electrocortical signatures and personality foundations of spontaneous deception

Although universal, lying is generally considered immoral behavior. Most neuroscience studies on lying sanction or instruct deceptive behaviors and thus might fail to acknowledge the significance of lie-related moral conflicts. By combining electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings with a novel paradigm in which participants decided freely whether to deceive another person, we have generated indices of the cognitive (reaction times and stimulus-locked event-related components) and moral (readiness potential and its correlations with deception-related personality traits) cost of spontaneous deception. Our data fail to support the consensus that deception is cognitively more demanding than truth telling, suggesting that spontaneous deception, as opposed to lying out of requirement, might not mandate additional cognitive workload. Interestingly, lying was associated with decreased motor readiness, an event-related potential (ERP) component that is linked to motor preparation of self-determined actions and modulated when we face moral dilemmas. Notably, this reduction was less extensive in manipulative participants and greater in those who cared highly about their impression management. Our study expands on previous findings on deception by associating a cortical marker of reduced preparation to act with individual differences in moral cognition.

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