October 24th, 2016

What a tangled web we weave…

when first we practice to deceive:

Here we provide empirical evidence for a gradual escalation of self-serving dishonesty and reveal a neural mechanism supporting it. Behaviorally, we show that the extent to which participants engage in self-serving dishonesty increases with repetition. Using functional MRI, we show that signal reduction in the amygdala is sensitive to the history of dishonest behavior, consistent with adaptation. Critically, the extent of reduced amygdala sensitivity to dishonesty on a present decision relative to the previous one predicts the magnitude of escalation of self-serving dishonesty on the next decision. The findings uncover a biological mechanism that supports a ‘slippery slope’: what begins as small acts of dishonesty can escalate into larger transgressions.

Of course, some people are just sociopaths from the start.

[NOTE: The title of this post derives from this.]

18 Responses to “What a tangled web we weave…”

  1. Artfldgr Says:

    Our susceptibility to pre-suasive techniques appears to be hard-wired into us. Mr Cialdini’s favourite study was conducted on 18-month-old infants who were variously shown images of a single person and pairs of people. After looking at the pictures, the infants were asked to pick up things that had been dropped on the floor. The babies who had been shown pictures of a single person were three times less likely to co-operate than those who had been shown pictures of groups. “I’m glad I was sitting down when I read that,” he says. “It proved that if we drew background attention to an idea it is more important to us.”

    One of the easiest ways of getting someone to focus on something is making them look at it, and once they do that, what they see assumes a larger significance than it otherwise would.

    In one experiment two people were having an argument and were watched by another pair, one of which looked at one combatant, the other at the other. In every case, the spectators gave greater importance to the person whose face that they could see, and judged them to have won the argument.

    The conclusion sounds obvious, and yet we hardly ever act accordingly. In a meeting, if we have something important to say, the usual thing is to sit next to the person chairing it. This turns out to be the worst possible place as they cannot see you — instead, anyone wanting to be heard must sit directly opposite the person who is leading the meeting.

    Our susceptibility to the most basic cues is proved by test after test. Motivational pictures and slogans genuinely (and depressingly) appear to encourage people to do drastically better. “If you show people doing an analytical task a picture of Rodin’s thinker, 41 per cent more get correct answers,” Mr Cialdini says.

    A college in the US that was trying to raise the grades of women sitting science subjects found that if the exams were invigilated by prominent women scientists — or if there were pictures of such women on the walls, the grades went up. The same, he says, could be applied in a corporate setting. Companies should display images of important female leaders, and if they don’t employ any such people they should borrow someone else’s.

    “They could have pictures of women executives at other firms,” he suggests, implying that Sheryl Sandberg should adorn the walls at LinkedIn, or Mary Barra at Ford. “Women need to see pictures of what is possible,” he says.

    Mr Cialdini himself uses pictures to pre-suade himself to do a better job. Whenever he is writing, he puts a picture of the person he is writing it for on the corner of his screen. “I want that low-level reminder, that cue to make the language and the diction in line with that audience.”

    Failing photographs, particular words can work too. If you have presented an idea to someone at work you should never ask for an opinion, but for advice. “When you ask for an opinion, the person takes a half-step back — you’ve asked them to introspect and so there is a distancing. But if you say ‘what is your advice’, they take a step towards you and it triggers a co-operative mindset and they are more likely to support your idea.”
    Some words do good, while some words can do damage. When Mr Cialdini was asked to give a talk to employees at SSM Health, he was told that the non-profit medical group had banned bullet points — not the blobs themselves but the word bullet, which was deemed out of line with their caring values. Mr Cialdini at first thought this silly, but subsequent research proves that all violent imagery has a powerful effect on behaviour.

    While SSM Health was manipulating behaviour to good ends, what about those that use pre-suasion techniques for bad ones? Mr Cialdini reassures himself that it is never in companies’ interests to engage in unethical pre-suasion, as it makes employees behave badly, leads to long-term financial decline and is potentially ruinous to a company’s reputation. He may be right in the very long term, but in the meantime it leaves plenty of scope for Svengali.

  2. Artfldgr Says:

    Two explanations for one event is a tell for lying.

    Guilty people almost always question the source of the information first. // a lack of denial, combined with questioning the source, is almost always a lie // Innocent people start with a clear denial, or sometimes confusion as to why the question is being asked

    When Clinton surrogates redirect any question about Wikileaks to “Russia did it” they are confirming that they believe the content is real and damaging. They just don’t realize they are confirming it.

    “Take him at his word” is code for “He’s on his own to defend the allegations. Keep me out of it.”

  3. Artfldgr Says:

    Rigging is a form of lie…

    If you want a reason to be worried, ask yourself why the mainstream media is so keen on framing the election as “not rigged.” The message I’m getting from them, collectively, is that they think it will be. (Because it will be.) We just don’t know how much the rigging will matter.

    Why do I say it will be rigged?

    Because whenever humans have motive, opportunity, a high upside gain, and low odds of detection, shenanigans happen 100% of the time. Our vote-counting systems have plenty of weak spots. Rigging (to some degree) is a near guarantee.

  4. Artfldgr Says:

    d a m n – hit the button as i moved the mouse and it went under the keyboard… arrghhhhh

    There will almost certainly be election rigging for the same reason there has been debate rigging. If you don’t believe me about debate rigging, ask a woman who did some of that debate rigging herself. Allegedly. Unless it was Russia’s fault // https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157934436595725&id=153080620724&_rdr


    Reality isn’t a factor in this election, as per usual. If the truth mattered, voters might care that the Democratic primaries were rigged against Sanders. They might care that the Clinton Foundation looks like a pay-to-play scheme. They might care that the FBI gave Clinton a free pass. They might care that we know Clinton cheated in at least one debate by getting a question in advance. They might care that Clinton’s dirty-tricks people incited the violence at Trump rallies. They might care that Clinton’s “speaking fees” were curiously high. They might care about all of that. But they don’t, because a crook is still a safer choice than a monster.
    The biggest illusion this election is that we think the people on the other side can’t see the warts on their own candidate. But I think they do. Clinton supporters know she is crooked, but I think they assume it is a normal degree of crookedness for an American politician. Americans assume that even the “good” politicians are trading favors and breaking every rule that is inconvenient to them. I’ve never heard a Clinton supporter defend Clinton as being pure and honest. Her supporters like her despite her crookedness.
    Likewise, Trump supporters know what they are getting. They know he’s offensive. They know he’s under-informed on policies. They know he pays as little in taxes as possible. They know he uses bankruptcy laws when needed. They know he ignores facts that are inconvenient to his message. They just don’t care. They want to push the monster into Washington D.C., close the door, and let him break everything that needs to be broken. Demolition is usually the first step of building something new. And Trump also knows how to build things when he isn’t in monster mode.

  5. Cornhead Says:

    What would Hillary’s MRI show?

  6. parker Says:


    My answer to your question is disdain and malice towards all.

  7. Artfldgr Says:

    STUDY: Over time lies desensitize brain to dishonesty…

    From porkies to whoppers: over time lies may desensitise brain to dishonesty

    Study suggests that telling small lies makes changes to the brain’s response to lying, rather than being a case of one lie necessitating another to maintain a story


  8. MollyG Says:

    Artfldodger: Shouldn’t you add a link to the blog of Scott Adams, whose posts you are quoting wholesale, without attribution?

  9. OM Says:

    The master of master persuaders?

  10. Frog Says:

    My response to this Nature Neuroscience article is: Hooey, pure hooey.

    The authors claim to find evidence of functional MRI change to the telling of serial lies in a short time-frame. About a fact of behavior already known to us all, they “reveal a neural mechanism for it.”

    This is a dubious paper.

    First, there is no “Materials and Methods” section, where one would normally find data in a scientific paper on how the MRIs were done, what type of MRI machine, etc.

    Second, we read “We used Neurosynth, a platform for large-scale automated synthesis of thousands of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies”.
    So it is a “platform” they used. For “Synthesis”. Reminds me of computer modelings on global warming, synthesizing the future. Yep.

    Third, the paper was written by three psychologists and one Duke Business School faculty member. Not an imager or MRI expert among them.
    fMRI seems to have become a favorite tool for psychologists, 99% of whom know next to nothing about imaging neuroanatomy or how MRIs work.

    Bibliography-building is what this paper is all about.

  11. Frog Says:

    But it was published in Nature Neuroscience. Much chin-stroking and head-nodding will follow, by the untenured.

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    A person with ADHD and Asberger’s, preferably the higher functioning levels, can be trained as better human lie detectors than whatever humans think they can do with MRIs.

  13. AesopFan Says:

    Ymarsakar Says:
    October 24th, 2016 at 7:43 pm
    A person with ADHD and Asberger’s, preferably the higher functioning levels, can be trained as better human lie detectors than whatever humans think they can do with MRIs.
    * *
    Source? or personal conjecture?
    I think you may be onto something, BTW, and would like to explore that further.

  14. bruce Says:

    My old grandmother lied about her age during her entire marriage, because she was older than my grandfather and prevented him knowing that. Her daughter, my mother, is such a liar that almost everything she ever told me is at best half-true, yet everyone believes her. And I really only realised this fully in recent decades of my 6 decades so far. I hate women. Why shouldn’t I?

  15. bruce Says:

    I have Asperger’s. Who says we can be “trained”? Each case is unique. But we are born to study humans as if they are under a microscope, so yes some of us are born good lie detectors. Not if the liars are your mother and her mother though! We also hate untruth.

  16. tim maguire Says:

    Obeying the law is habit forming. So is breaking it.

    I know from my college days that when some seemingly victim-less behavior is normal and accepted within a particular environment, you can forget that it is not normal or accepted in others (specifically in that context, you can forget that smoking pot is against the law).

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    Source? or personal conjecture?
    I think you may be onto something, BTW, and would like to explore that further.

    It’s part of the idiot savant research I’ve gathered before, which noted the learning “disabilities” and strengths of various children diagnosed with such. Asberger’s technically is on the more functional spectrum of the idiot savant scale, which when I try to explain to people, I explain as min maxing. Minimum in one area, max in another, for savant scale abilities. “Functional” means that they average their abilities out somehow. Their weaknesses are stronger, their strengths are less intense.

    One savant level ability I was interested in was the ability to perceive all the facets of the human face, body language, and voice tones (sensory overload or sensory deluge phenomenon). Those 3 things are a necessity to detect human lies, as I learned from interrogation protocols and various Israeli border guard agent techniques.

    Another research data I heard about was that idiot savant type children, functional though barely in the social/emotional scale, responded better to a robot teacher than a human teacher that had unpredictable habits, facial movements, etc.

    There’s also personal anecdotes concerning ADHD, where they are not good at social or talking or verbal/linguistics learning, but become excellent when undergoing physical movement such as soccer or martial arts. This was partially spliced from a physical therapist and national martial arts competitor, Scott Sonnon’s personal testimony. When I talked to the parents of other children who were labeled ADHD or just attention deficit whatever, they reported similar behavior patterns, plus and minuses.

    This ended up with a pretty solid conclusion on my side, that people with “learning disabilities” are merely people who aren’t good at verbal/linguistic or visual orientated learning. They “think” only in the neural pathways linked to the motor controls, which are not in the front or visual cortex of the brain, but in the middle brain and upper spinal column. What people think is their motor control brain area is the one that overrides the hand retraction when you touch something really hot or really cold. The spine sends the signal first, and the motor control of the brain moves it, that’s the most efficient way for the human body to move and react to balance changes such as walking or swimming, the conscious control is often just a safety valve and inefficient too. This is essentially where ADHD children concentrate the primary amount of their IQ and intellectual learning capabilities, not in the frontal cortex connected to visual or other areas using audio/linguistics. They learn by muscle memory and forming physical movements, sometimes in 3d visualization. If, however, they develop their intellect via physical skill improvement, they can then transfer that IQ to verbal/linguistics, in the same fashion that a person good at 2 languages can pick up a new language faster as a result.

    Who says we can be “trained”? Each case is unique.

    The people who have higher savant level abilities than you do, and who have also mastered social and verbal/linguistics abilities more than average humans have.

    The problem with Asberger’s, if we’re just using the example of Art or others here, is that they grow up mostly surrounded by idiots trying to teach them how to do things the human way. Meaning, inefficiently. So they get used to thinking they have to learn or do everything on their own, they are OCD like that, and they don’t like anybody else “training” them, “telling them” to change things, or interfering with their OCD rituals. For the most part, they need to be left alone to pursue their rituals, because that’s the most efficient way they do things. That is, of course, not the case when they are children and still willing to trust the adults around them.

    However, since Asberger’s cannot [easily] understand human deception and verbal/linguistics that the average human picks up by breathing, if they wish to obtain talents other than their limited savant abilities diluted by human exposure to the education system and society, they need a teacher.

    The only people capable of teaching them are those who understand humans better than humans understand themselves, and that understand the strengths and weaknesses of autistic idiot savants better than the savants do, and who have savant level abilities HIGHER or equal to the autistics/savants.

    Savants are still human, they are not super human or perfect. Meaning, they don’t respect people who are “inferior”. They have to shut up about it, because of human “laws” and social consensus, but it doesn’t stop them looking down on their teachers, friends, or family that are “normal”. Of course every individual is different, even sociopaths and psychopaths when inculcated and raised by peaceful families and environments, turn out to be solid productive neurosurgeons [actual person], not serial killers.

    The reason why I can easily puzzle out autistic abilities, weaknesses, and strengths is because I have several inborn or developed skills which exceed what they have or are at least equal to them : without the inefficiencies or weaknesses that relate to not understanding human deception, society, and psychological warfare. Or to put it another way, I have the warrior gene from the ADHD line and the mental savant abilities of the autistic line, but unlike those who were born with such talents, I developed mine using reverse engineering and absorbing the knowledge of exceptional teachers. This allows me to create synergies between different skills and areas of the brain, which is more useful to me than say the savant ability to calculate pi to the 29 digit.

    What pharmaceuticals do is prevent the full development of the talents of individuals labeled with ADHD and other things. It nullifies their strengths, so they behave better in normal society, but at the same time, without maximizing their talents, they cannot master their weaknesses. For example, ADHD or autistic people who have taken drugs, I notice they adopt more easily the bad habits of those around them. This makes them more “normal”, but doesn’t make them better. I was never dysfunctional enough to be sent for “treatment” so to speak, so I was merely labeled eccentric. I also hate drugs and other things with massive side effects.

    It’s also whenever people say they are autistic or Asberger’s, I notice others give them sympathy or special care or more laxity. I don’t, however. If anything, I treat them with more severeness and expect more of them, precisely because they are capable in more fields.

    But we are born to study humans as if they are under a microscope, so yes some of us are born good lie detectors.

    I study humans and autistics under a similar microscope, the way savants laser lock unto things they get obsessed over. Whether a human is sub average, average, or above average, it is all good for my research. Irregardless of their natural talents or weaknesses, to me they are merely one thing: human.

    Unless you’re a zombie, then you aren’t human to me anymore, of course.

    AesopFan Says:

    If you want to learn more about this issue, depending on what church or community you belong to, you can easily look into alternative teaching methods like the 72 teaching methods, of which verbal linguistics is only one of em. There are various parents and other things that specialize in teaching special needs children. You don’t need to know where they are or who they are, you just need to find a family in your network that has this issue. If they are dealing with it without using drugs, then they’re using alternative teaching methods most likely.

    Also, this is why I don’t write down 99% of what I’m thinking, or what I read, like Art does. Even when someone asks me to elaborate, I can only explain 10-20% of what I can see using words, since words contain only 10% of the total bandwidth we normally use with voice tones and body language.

  18. Ymarsakar Says:


    Notice he was only diagnosed with Asberger’s at 25, when his brain had mostly matured and lengthened the neuron structures to stable paths.

    If he had been diagnosed as a kid in modern day and drugged up, his chances of fully expressing his talent, and thus using it to mitigate his weaknesses (Linguistics or some other area) would be dramatically more prone to failure.

    Verbal Linguistics weakness is usually an ADHD warrior gene connection, whereas Asberger’s are perhaps considered high functioning savant/autistic because their language abilities are relatively good if not superior. However, that doesn’t mean they understand how other humans do things or why.

    I never particularly liked the idea that a min max ability would let a human become like a tool calculator to do one thing really well, but make them unwise in other matters. I preferred jack of all trades, “average” the weaknesses out. Instead of some preponderous savant ability that is exceedingly powerful, I prefer say 6-12 different skills that are more mediocre or usable or practical in human life.

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