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Can one see the shape of a lie?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - 10:01 PM

rabbits playing poker (xerones/flickr)

Is this your card? Don't lie or neuroscientist Dan Langleben may catch you. In our recent show Deception, Radio Lab explores how Paul Ekman can see the truth 'leak out' through microexpressions in the face, but Langleben wants to go deeper.

What if we could watch the brain as it's telling a lie? Would we see something different? This is the first topic in our new series of explorations in neuroscience, 'Mouse in amaze'. Jad asks Langleben how he uses fMRI and the 'Guilty Knowledge Test' to see what's happening in the brain when we tell a lie. $20 to fool a brain scanner? Sign me up!

Listen to Jad's interview with Dan Langleben above.

See what Jad is being shown (if you're currently listening it's best to open it in a new window):
Langleben pic1

The concept behind this test is actually taken from an old paradigm previously used to determine the accuracy of the polygraph. The polygraph has been found to be largely inaccurate probably because it measures perspiration, heart rate and breathing, which are all indirectly related to the act of telling a lie.

Dr. Langleben comments on the polygraph:


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Comments [3]

Mark Dawson

Your program on lies was striking. Still, I wish in the section on self-deceit you had probed deeper. Lying to yourself is very much a part of the human condition, a remarkably common and disturbing response for a victim of a severe emotional trauma. People struggling to suppress memories of childhood sexual abuse, for example, aren't happier or more successful than average. Also, plenty of athletes with a positive mental attitude still lose. You still need to be born with the right stuff, and these days use steroids. Lying to yourself about your ability on the track or in the pool won't make you win or even help you win necessarily. But after the race you never hear the winner talk about how he was inferior and sure he was going to fail.

Apr. 10 2008 04:44 AM

This research is fascinating! I wonder if over time this method of testing with become more mainstream and potentially replace the polygraph? Is it invasive? Thanks for the great content, keep it coming!

Apr. 04 2008 10:07 PM

hi, there's also a really interesting conversation between paul ekman and daniel goleman about the applications of social intelligence which you can hear samples of at

Apr. 03 2008 10:37 AM

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