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Our brains reveal whether we are honest or a cheater

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

New research from the Center for Neuroeconomics at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) identifies new ways of predicting individual differences in honesty using measures of connectivity within the brain at rest.

There are immense economic costs associated with dishonest and selfish behavior, such as for example tax evasion. Therefore, finding effective ways to reduce dishonest behavior is of great relevance to policymakers.

The research shows that the brain of an honest person has stronger connectivity between networks within the brain associated with cognitive control, self-referential thinking, and reward processing.

Lead researcher Sebastian Speer says: “Differences in our moral default (that is, whether we are more or less inclined, to be honest) can be predicted from patterns of neural activity when the brain is at rest. More honest individuals show higher connectivity between brain regions associated with cognitive control, self-referential thinking – which means the extent to which they consider their self-image – and reward processing. Therefore, interventions targeted at reducing dishonesty should focus on these three processes.”  

The research suggests that increasing cognitive control capacity, as well as perspective-taking skills in people with an inclination to cheat, maybe effective strategies to make them more honest.

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