Cheaters Keep Lying Because They Stop Feeling Guilty

Once a cheater, always a cheater.

It’s a warning that you should be wary of a serial cheater — that people who aren’t loyal to a partner will cheat again.

Whether you believe it’s true or not, a new study linking dishonesty and the brain may explain why serial cheaters continue to commit infidelity.

The paper, titled “The brain adapts to dishonesty,” claims each time a person lies, they feel less guilty about doing so.

It’s all because of the amygdala, a region of the brain that provides a negative response when humans lie — but every time we are dishonest, the response weakens.

cheaters2_small Cheaters Keep Lying Because They Stop Feeling Guilty Culture

The study states,

We speculate that the blunted response to repeated acts of dishonesty may reflect a reduction in the emotional response to these decisions or to their affective assessment and saliency.

Elite Daily spoke to Neil Garrett, a co-author of the paper and researcher at Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

He said the findings would need to be tested specifically on relationships to determine whether it applies to infidelity, but that a “similar mechanism could apply.”

He told Elite Daily,

The idea would be the first time we commit adultery we feel bad about it. But the next time we feel less bad and so on, with the result that we can commit adultery to a greater extent.

Garrett added,

What our study and others suggest is a powerful factor that prevents us from cheating is our emotional reaction to it, how bad we feel essentially, and the process of adaptation reduces this reaction, thereby allowing us to cheat more.

With serial cheaters, it could be the case that they initially felt bad about cheating, but have cheated so much they’ve adapted to their ways and simply don’t feel bad about cheating any more.

Another possibility is that they never felt bad about cheating to begin with, so they didn’t need adaptation to occur, they were comfortable with it from the get-go.

Essentially, those little white lies — regardless of what they’re about, and whether you tell them to your parents, boss or friends — grow into more significant lies because we can deal with them better.

Or, of course, you’re a raging sociopath with an inability to feel guilt about hurting someone you care about.

Garrett also said the study would need to be modified to assess the impact of cheating on the amygdala, adding,

I think one of the key differences would be that cheating in relationships often takes place over shorter timescales than in my study.

So whether adaptation takes place at slower time scales and whether it generalizes to other types of behavior we find aversive like adultery, violence, etc are the key two things we’d need to test to start to answer this.

The authors behind the study came to their conclusion after an experiment that tested participants’ capacity to lie.

People were shown a jar filled with coins and asked to help a partner, who was only given a blurry image, guess how many were in the jar.

But when they were told they would receive a financial reward if their partner overestimated the amount of money in the jar, they were more likely to lie — prompting a response from the amygdala.

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  • RockyMtn1776

    IMO cheaters do not keep lying because they feel guilty. They feel no guilt at all and can’t understand why others become so angry at them. They are Sociopaths who have no feeling toward others, many are quite attractive, very likeable, have a fantastic memory and are usually good at sports plus being highly intelligent. It is somewhat hereditary, they are in every field and many get into politics where they excel at harming everyone.

  • DrArtaud

    The amygdala, fascinating structure. I once developed a fear of everything, it was a strange, nagging, but nondisabling fear. I consulted my family doctor, so the incident was put on record. No matter what I thought, I had a “fear” that I couldn’t do it. If I looked at a skyscraper, I had a fear that I couldn’t build one, didn’t know where to start (of course, but when afflicted, there was a “fear” to it.) If I looked at a piece of paper, the same fear would occur that I couldn’t make it. Anything I looked at, I’d develop a fear about. Mind you, I was still going out, still going to work, but I had fear about everything.

    I had, at that time, a persistent sinus infection. I called my ENT, he prescribed antibiotics, took them, and when through, still had the sinus infection. Contacted him again, he prescribed more antibiotics, and Prednisone (steroids) and I began that course of treatment. My wife and I had gone on vacation, traveling within the state for the week and staying in motels. Early one night, I sat in the room, my wife asleep, and I became fearful of a claustrophobic feeling, and had a desire to run outside, where it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, and was afraid of that. I laughed to myself, caught between two fears, darned if I did and darned if I didn’t.

    Two or three days into the vacation, still taking the antibiotics and steroids, and I awoke in the morning and was back to normal, these fears had disappeared overnight. I did some research online and though not much was available read an article describing sinus infections and activation of the amygdala.

    Here’s a side view MRI of the head. The location of the amygdala is shown. The sinuses are the black area nearby (black because they are hollow, without tissue density).

    MRI – Location of Amygdala relative to Sinuses

    This might explain why sinus inflammation is often linked to anxiety: the sinus cavities lie very close to the amygdala, so inflammation occurring in the sinuses might conceivably precipitate inflammation in the nearby amygdala, causing the amygdala’s microglia to activate and pump out glutamate, leading to amygdala overstimulation, and anxiety.”

    The above is from a forum, not a medical site per se, but I think demonstrates what I lived. My affliction disappeared over night while being treated for sinusitis.

    John Lovitz, the king of lying, demonstrating the seeming acceptance of lying the more one engages in it. But, he also learns the truth about obama, an interesting contrast.

    Video: Jon Lovitz Appears as the Pathological Liar on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show

    Video: Jon Lovitz Calls Obama a “F-ing A**hole”

    Video: Jon Lovitz Nails Obama On Hannity