psychopath

Psychopaths aren't born dishonest - but they are better at learning how to lie than others, new research has shown
Psychopaths may give themselves away by showing how well they can lie, new research suggests.

Researchers found those with psychopathic traits can learn how to be deceitful and manipulative faster than people without these characteristics.

The results suggest that psychopaths do not not have a 'natural' capacity for dishonesty, but can learn how to deceive people more easily than others.

Researchers say psychopaths might find it easier to lie because their brains do not have to work so hard at resolving moral conflicts.

Researchers asked people to take part in an experiment where they had to pretend to recognise or not recognise faces in a collection of photographs.

They discovered individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits were able to lie much more quickly after practising the task.

By contrast, individuals with low levels of psychopathic traits showed no improvement in their lying speed.

Dr Tatia Lee, lead researcher from the University of Hong Kong, said: 'The stark contrast between individuals with high and low levels of psychopathic traits in lying performance following two training sessions is remarkable, given that there were no significant differences in lying performance between the two groups prior to training.'


Comment: This is an odd finding. Psychopaths lie all the time. Why would this group show no already-existing ability to lie better than others? The researchers seem stumped by this too, as Dr. Shao states below.


Dr Robin Shao, also from the University of Hong Kong, said: 'High psychopathy is characterised by untruthfulness and manipulativeness but the evidence so far was not clear on whether high-psychopathic individuals in the general population tend to lie more or better than others.

'Our findings provide evidence that people with high psychopathic traits might just be better at learning how to lie.'

To find out if individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits were better at learning how to lie than others, the researchers recruited 52 students.

A total of 23 showed low levels of psychopathic traits and 29 showed high levels of psychopathic traits.

Students in both groups were shown a series of photographs of familiar and unfamiliar faces.

They received a cue to give either an honest or a dishonest response when asked whether they knew the person in the photograph or not.

The researchers measured the students' reaction times for each response and observed their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging methodology (fMRI).

Participants then completed a two-session training exercise before repeating the task.

The researchers found that following the training exercise, individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits had significantly shorter response times when being prompted to lie than during the initial task.

Individuals with low levels of psychopathic traits showed no changes in response time.

The difference may be due to how the brains of individuals with high and low levels of psychopathic traits process lies.

Dr Lee said: 'During lying, the 'true' information needs to be suppressed and reversed.

'Lying requires a series of processes in the brain including attention, working memory, inhibitory control and conflict resolution which we found to be reduced in individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits.

'By contrast, in individuals with low levels of psychopathic traits this lie-related brain activity increased.

'The additional 'effort' it took their brains to process untruthful responses may be one of the reasons why they didn't improve their lying speed.