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The neural basis of deception in strategic interactions


von Cramon,  D. Yves
Department Cognitive Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Volz, K. G., Vogeley, K., Tittgemeyer, M., von Cramon, D. Y., & Sutter, M. (2015). The neural basis of deception in strategic interactions. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 9: 27. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00027.

Communication based on informational asymmetries abounds in politics, business, and almost any other form of social interaction. Informational asymmetries may create incentives for the better-informed party to exploit her advantage by misrepresenting information. Using a game-theoretic setting, we investigate the neural basis of deception in human interaction. Unlike in most previous fMRI research on deception, the participants decide themselves whether to lie or not. We find activation within the right temporo-parietal junction (rTPJ), the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the (pre)cuneus (CUN), and the anterior frontal gyrus (aFG) when contrasting lying with truth telling. Notably, our design also allows for an investigation of the neural foundations of sophisticated deception through telling the truth—when the sender does not expect the receiver to believe her (true) message. Sophisticated deception triggers activation within the same network as plain lies, i.e., we find activity within the rTPJ, the CUN, and aFG. We take this result to show that brain activation can reveal the sender's veridical intention to deceive others, irrespective of whether in fact the sender utters the factual truth or not.