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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 04 February 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00016

When Pinocchio's nose does not grow: belief regarding lie-detectability modulates production of deception

Kamila E. Sip1,2,3*, David Carmel4, Jennifer L. Marchant5,6, Jian Li7, Predrag Petrovic8, Andreas Roepstorff1,2, William B. McGregor2 and Christopher D. Frith1,6
  • 1Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 2Department of Aesthetics and Communication - Linguistics, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 3Department of Psychology, Rutgers University - Newark, NJ, USA
  • 4Department of Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • 5Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK
  • 6Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London, UK
  • 7Department of Psychology, IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research Peking University, Beijing, China
  • 8Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet Stockholm, A Medical University, Stockholm, Sweden

Does the brain activity underlying the production of deception differ depending on whether or not one believes their deception can be detected? To address this question, we had participants commit a mock theft in a laboratory setting, and then interrogated them while they underwent functional MRI (fMRI) scanning. Crucially, during some parts of the interrogation participants believed a lie-detector was activated, whereas in other parts they were told it was switched-off. We were thus able to examine the neural activity associated with the contrast between producing true vs. false claims, as well as the independent contrast between believing that deception could and could not be detected. We found increased activation in the right amygdala and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), as well as the left posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), during the production of false (compared to true) claims. Importantly, there was a significant interaction between the effects of deception and belief in the left temporal pole and right hippocampus/parahippocampal gyrus, where activity increased during the production of deception when participants believed their false claims could be detected, but not when they believed the lie-detector was switched-off. As these regions are associated with binding socially complex perceptual input and memory retrieval, we conclude that producing deceptive behavior in a context in which one believes this deception can be detected is associated with a cognitively taxing effort to reconcile contradictions between one's actions and recollections.

Keywords: mock-crime, deception, beliefs, lie-detection, fMRI

Citation: Sip KE, Carmel D, Marchant JL, Li J, Petrovic P, Roepstorff A, McGregor WB and Frith CD (2013) When Pinocchio's nose does not grow: belief regarding lie-detectability modulates production of deception. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:16. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00016

Received: 28 August 2012; Accepted: 14 January 2013;
Published online: 04 February 2013.

Edited by:

Matthias Gamer, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Reviewed by:

Thomas Baumgartner, University of Basel, Switzerland
Nobuhito Abe, Kyoto University, Japan

Copyright © 2013 Sip, Carmel, Marchant, Li, Petrovic, Roepstorff, McGregor and Frith. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Kamila E. Sip, Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University - Newark, Smith Hall, Room 301, 101 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102, USA. e-mail: ksip@psychology.rutgers.edu