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Cheaters May No Longer Prosper

In the first neurobiological study of cheating and honesty, it turns out that cheaters can be detected with remarkable accuracy using fMRI.

In an experiment designed by Joshua Greene and Joseph Paxton at Harvard University , volunteers were asked to bet money on a coin flip. Sometimes, they were given the opportunity to tell afterwards whether or not they had successfully predicted the outcome of the toss - they were given a chance to lie.

An fMRI was used to record brain activity in the prefrontal cortex and other regions associated with decision making and behavioural control. Honest players showed no increase in brain activity even when they had the opportunity to cheat. However, liars showed increased activity whenever they had a chance to cheat.

Greene and Paxton found that they could predict each player's degree of cheating from their brain activity with remarkable accuracy.

This experiment is far from producing a usable veridicator like the one H. Beam Piper used to great dramatic effect in his 1962 classic Little Fuzzy.

There was a bright conical helmet on his head, and electrodes had been clamped to various portions of his anatomy. On the wall behind him was a circular screen which ought to have been a calm turquoise blue, but which was flickering from dark blue through violet to mauve.

But we're getting there.

From New Scientist.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/17/2009)

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