“I am a selfish person, I don’t think about others before doing something”
Not many people get to hear this from someone, but I did. Mostly, it came out of the frustration and to avoid the confrontation, but this one sentence took away my whole anger for being lied to for months, what I was left with-was only pity for the person. I may have lost my trust, time, energy, probably money but this person has lost the humanity, what else could I feel? This person was not the first one I encountered with such lack of empathy but the first one to openly say that and it was such a relief.
However, the incident got me to delve more into it and understand about the condition in which one totally lacks guilt, conscience and sense of empathy. Basically, the characteristics which makes us a human.
Most of the researchers describe such personalities as Pathological Liars when they talk about some of the main characteristics of these personalities, how their brain functions, how they lack human feelings and most importantly why you should NOT try to fix them.
Let us start with a Pathological liar’s brain. To start with, they have a very effective brain and with every lie their brain gets more effective yet more insensitive. These people can lie with such ease as they lack typical human emotions altogether. We all lie, most of them are white lies which we sometimes say to boost our ego, for fun or to save ourselves from little situations or at times just to protect our loved one’s. But for a normal person, even those lies are not easy. We always try to fix the lie or make it up in different ways.
Let us take an example- There has been a study on spouses involved in infidelity. A cheating spouse usually become extra loving & caring towards their spouses and their families. One of the reasons is the guilt and their conscience continuously having a hit on them. But this happens only in the beginning. As they lie repeatedly, their brain stops emotionally responding to it, ultimately taking away all the guilt and conscience off the chart. That’s what happens with compulsive liars, they know they are lying and probably hurting others feeling, it’s just by now, their brain doesn’t signal them to care or be empathetic. Tali Sharot, a professor of neuroscience at University of College London says, one part of the brain has a very clear, direct relationship to dishonest behaviors. That part is amygdala. A liar’s brain goes through a highly sophisticated process of self -training, and this training is what helps it discard any feelings of guilt.
What is amygdala? Amygdala is a small almond shaped structure in the brain responsible for the perception of emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness, as well as the controlling of aggression. The amygdala helps to store memories of events and emotions and reminds the individual of the past feelings if similar events happen in the future thus making one alert or scared. The size of the amygdala is positively correlated with increased aggression, sex drive and physical behavior.
In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, Tali devised a study to test people’s dishonest tendencies. They found that when people are dishonest, activity in amygdala changed. However, with each scenario, the more lies the participants used, the less activated was the amygdala. That is because with each additional lie, the arousal and conflict of being dishonest diminishes, making it easier and convenient to lie. Sharot also found that the amygdala became less active mostly when people lie to benefit themselves. Self-interest is the biggest fuel of dishonesty. This explains the selfishness of the person who lied to me.
As Dan Ariely says in his book, “The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How we LIE to Everyone-Especially Ourselves,” People who lie need two basic things, Memory and Emotional Coldness. Dr. Ariely also did an experiment. The results showed that the brains of pathological liars had 14% less grey matter and 22% to 26% more white matter in their prefrontal cortex. It means a liar’s brain makes a lot more connections between their memories and their ideas. A bigger web of connections means they can access these associations more quickly and make their lies consistent. It also means they have a very good control on their brain for which they often take great pride in. When you get numb to the consequences that your actions have on other people, you lose your natural goodness that should exist in very human being. Behind all these lies, there are dark motivations, for power, fame, status, self-acknowledgement, self-interest and domination.
In my next post, we will discuss more such characteristics of the pathological liars, some fascinating brain insights, certain traits which can help us recognize them, how to avoid falling into their web of lies and how to save ourselves from trying to save them.
Stay Tuned! This is important, you don’t know who is lying to you.