Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Small fibs could turn you into a full-blown liar, study finds


Telling small fibs may not be as harmless as we've all been led to believe, according to a new study.

Scientists at University College London have found that carrying out small acts of deception causes the brain to become desensitised to telling bigger lies.

Read more: The book everyone lies about reading to appear more intelligent

Through scanning the brains of 80 people who were asked to make dishonest statements, they found that the amygdala, an area of our grey matter that responds to sensory information with emotional responses, issues a weaker adverse reaction with each lie we tell. 

In the study, the amygdala's declining response was so pronounced with every lie that researchers were able to accurately predict how dishonest participants would be in the next trials.

“When we lie for personal gain, our amygdala produces a negative feeling that limits the extent to which we are prepared to lie," experimental psychologist Dr Tali Sharot explains.

"However, this response fades as we continue to lie, and the more it falls the bigger our lies become. This may lead to a 'slippery slope' where small acts of dishonesty escalate into more significant lies."

Read more: Three lies it's actually acceptable to tell as part of your job interview

Commenting in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the UCL researchers said the results correspond with common situations involving deception, with everyone from tax-evaders, adulterers and sports cheats often recalling how "small acts of dishonesty snowballed over time".

The same principle "may also apply to escalations in other actions such as risk-taking or violent behaviour," lead author Dr Neil Garrett adds.

Previous studies have suggested that in the brains of psychopaths, the amygdala shows reduced activity in response to graphic images of murder scenes.


mary berry food network christmas.jpg

Bake Off’s Mary Berry confirmed for brand-new cooking show

sarah jessica parker kim cattrall.jpg

Sarah Jessica Parker slams sexist Kim Cattrall feuding rumours


“Frantic, distressed” Taylor Swift describes alleged groping incident


The best possible gifts for when flowers aren’t going to cut it

17 unusual and thoughtful gifts for when the s**t hits the fan

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This Battle of the Sexes legend wants you to STOP asking about McEnroe

“I would like to see John McEnroe win a Grand Slam tournament while pregnant”

by Susan Devaney
22 Sep 2017

“The real reason we should all be upset about Uber”

Grow up: your bank balance really isn’t what’s at stake here

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017

There's a huge sherbet fountain coming to London - and it's free

Bompas & Parr are planning a weird, wonderful and nostalgia-filled event

by Helen Brown
22 Sep 2017

Rick and Morty creator responds to sexist trolling of female writers

The show hired four women. Cue cries of “Worst. Episodes. Evah.”

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

Everything you need to know about Uber being banned in London

The taxi firm has had its license revoked by TfL

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

The new Baileys flavour you’ll want to drink well beyond Halloween

Perfect autumn cocktails ahead

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This unexpected town has been voted the best place to work in the UK

We didn’t see this one coming

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

Harry Potter fans, this epic Hogwarts goblet is actually magical

It's perfect for Butterbeer (or prosecco)

by Megan Murray
22 Sep 2017

The hidden meanings behind the nation’s most popular baby names

Prepare for lots of girls’ names ending in ‘a’

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017