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Front Behav Neurosci. 2015 Feb 12;9:27. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00027. eCollection 2015.

The neural basis of deception in strategic interactions.

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Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience Tübingen, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy University of Cologne Germany ; Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine - Cognitive Neuroscience (INM3), Research Center Jülich Jülich, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research Cologne, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Leipzig, Germany.
Department of Public Economics, University of Innsbruck Innsbruck, Austria ; Department of Economics, University of Cologne Cologne, Germany.


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.


deception; fMRI experiment; habenula; sophisticated deception; strategic interactions; temporo-parietal junction

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