1.20.2012

Narcissism – Is our Brain Miswired

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            Liars come in all shapes and sizes, some work very hard to perfect their craft.  As we encounter those individuals who have a silver tongue, some stand out more than others and are easy to see.  Others have been known to make us ask, “What’s wrong with that individual?”  In my pursuit of the truth behind some of our mysteries, I have encountered an interesting point of view, in some cases our brains may actually be structured or “wired” to lie.  Narcissism is one of the many diseases of the brain and when science is applied, a fascinating new look into what might be comes into focus.  “Oh what a wicked web we weave, when at first we do attempt to deceive.”


            According to an online article posted by University of Southern California News (usc.edu, 09/2005), conclusive proof exists in the structural abnormality of the brain and people who habitually lie, cheat or manipulate.  108 temporary employees were voluntarily pulled from a pool and given a series of tests and interviews where questions looked for inconsistencies in areas covering: criminal background, occupation, education and family.  In this study group a dozen were found to have a history of lying (11 men and 1 woman), 16 showed signs of anti-social personality disorder non pathological lying (15 men, 1 woman) and 21 who were “normal control group” (15 men, 6 women).  The habitual liars admitted to telling lies to obtain a sickness benefit as well as other items. 

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            In our brain, our feelings of remorse come from the frontal cortex region and in this study, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) a picture of each study group’s brains were obtained.  It was discovered that those whose silver tongue did weave a web of deceit, had slightly more “white” matter than grey.  Liars in comparison to those in the normal group had an average of 22 percent increase in prefrontal white matter and a 14 percent decrease in grey matterWhite matter or the “wiring of the brain” seems to correspond to the liar’s ability to deceive as it is a difficult task to achieve and be effective at its desired outcomes.  The greater the amount of wiring, the potentially stronger the deceiver’s skills become as their vocabulary may be stronger or they may be more naturally adept to suppressing the truth.

            Without saying that this study is the final answer to figuring out our complex minds and how it affects our behaviors, the science seems to support the theory that it may be one of the components to those who lie, according to the article.  Yaling Yang, the study’s author hopes that this will benefit those in the medical, criminology and business areas by giving each one a potential tool to detect persons who may be unsuitable for those tasks, guilty of crimes or need clinical help in solving other potential problems. The research was published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry and also includes another study in which autistic children, who have difficulty in deceiving, showed an increase in prefrontal grey matter in their brains which would suggest stronger powers of suppressing mistruths.  Members of the research group were gathered from the psychology, radiology, medicine and research departments at USC and from Hillside Hospital in California

            According to what we have reviewed, in a study conducted at USC those who tend to habitually or pathologically deceive, have a probability of increased white matter in the prefrontal cortex.  The combination of magnetic resonance imaging and interviews has helped to potentially unlock one of the many mysteries of human behavior, why we lie.  No matter the view or study, deceitful behavior is unacceptable but it is nice to know science now has a better look into the minds of those who are well versed in their craft.  Criminologists, Clinicians and Business Owners will benefit from this study and who knows, it might come complete with 3D glasses.
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