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说谎多了,你的大脑就会麻木

更新时间:2016-10-26 11:11:31 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why Big Liars Often Start Out as Small Ones
说谎多了,你的大脑就会麻木

People who tell small, self-serving lies are likely to progress to bigger falsehoods, and over time, the brain appears to adapt to the dishonesty, according to a new study.

一篇新发表的论文称,人们如果撒下一些利己的小谎,就有可能更进一步,编造更大的谎言,而且假以时日,大脑似乎会做出调整,去适应这种不诚实。

The finding, the researchers said, provides evidence for the “slippery slope” sometimes described by wayward politicians, corrupt financiers, unfaithful spouses and others in explaining their misconduct.

研究人员称,上述研究结果为“滑坡谬误”论提供了证据,这种论调有时会在反复无常的政客、腐败的金融家、出轨的配偶以及其他人等为自己的不当行为辩解时浮出水面。

“They usually tell a story where they started small and got larger and larger, and then they suddenly found themselves committing quite severe acts,” said Tali Sharot, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London. She was a senior author of the study, published on Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

“在他们的叙述中,起初发生的不过是些小事,但事情越来越大,然后他们突然发现自己做出了极为恶劣的举动,”伦敦大学学院(University College London)认知神经学助理教授塔利·沙罗特(Tali Sharot)说。她是周一发表在《自然神经科学》(Nature Neuroscience)杂志上的这篇论文的资深作者。

Everyone lies once in a while, if only to make a friend feel better (“That dress looks great on you!”) or explain why an email went unanswered (“I never got it!”). Some people, of course, lie more than others.

每个人都会偶尔撒个谎,哪怕只是为了让朋友感觉好一点(“这条裙子你穿着真好看!”),抑或是给没回邮件找个借口(“我从未收到!”)。当然了,有些人撒谎的次数会比其他人多。

But dishonesty has been difficult to study. Using brain scanners in a lab, researchers have sometimes instructed subjects to lie in order to see what their brains were doing. Dr. Sharot and her colleagues devised a situation that offered participants the chance to lie of their own free will, and gave them an incentive to do so.

但不诚实一直是一种难以研究的特质。在实验室里,研究人员有时会让受试者撒谎,并通过脑部扫描仪观察其脑部活动。沙罗特博士和同事们设定了这样一种情境:给予受试者自愿撒谎的机会,并激励他们这样做。

A functional MRI scanning device monitored brain activity, with the researchers concentrating on the amygdala, an area associated with emotional response.

一部功能性核磁共振造影扫描仪监控着脑部的活动,受到研究人员重点关注的是杏仁体,一个与情感反应有关的区域。

Participants in the study were asked to advise a partner in another room about how many pennies were in a jar. When the subjects believed that lying about the amount of money was to their benefit, they were more inclined to dishonesty and their lies escalated over time. As lying increased, the response in the amygdala decreased. And the size of the decline from one trial to another predicted how much bigger a subject’s next lie would be.

在这项研究中,受试者接到指令,要就罐子里有多少硬币给待在另一个房间里的伙伴提供意见。当受试者觉得就硬币数量撒谎对自己有利时,会更倾向于欺骗对方,而且随着时间的推移,其谎言会逐渐升级。谎越撒越大,杏仁体里的反应则越来越弱。此外,通过受试者一次次尝试撒谎时反应减弱的程度,可以预测他们下一次撒的谎又会严重多少。

These findings suggested that the negative emotional signals initially associated with lying decrease as the brain becomes desensitized, Dr. Sharot said.

沙罗特博士称,这些研究结果表明,随着大脑变得越来越麻木,最初与撒谎有关的负面情感信号会逐渐减弱。

“Think about it like perfume,” she said. “You buy a new perfume, and it smells strongly. A few days later, it smells less. And a month later, you don’t smell it at all.”

“想来就和香水差不多,”她说。“你新买了一瓶香水,味道很浓。过了几天,它的味道变淡了。一个月以后,你就什么都闻不见了。”

Functional imaging is a blunt instrument, and the meaning of fluctuations in brain activity is often difficult to interpret. Dr. Sharot agreed that the study could not determine exactly what type of response the decreased activity in the amygdala represented.

功能性造影是一种不那么精确的手段,而且脑部活动的波动常常是难以解释的。沙罗特博士承认,通过这项研究无法确切认定杏仁体内活动的减弱代表着哪种类型的反应。

“We know for sure it’s related to lying,” she said. “Whether it’s their negative emotional reaction, that’s only speculation, based on the parts of the brain we looked at.”

“我们确定它和撒谎有关,”她说。“至于那是不是他们的负面情感反应,只能基于我们所观察的那块脑部区域进行推测。”

But the researchers included numerous checks on the study’s results and replicated some parts of it before publication. The research was led by Neil Garrett, a doctoral student at University College London at the time. Dan Ariely of Duke University and Stephanie C. Lazzaro of University College London were also authors of the report.

但在论文发表前,研究人员就研究结果做过大量核对工作,并重复得出了部分研究结果。这项研究的牵头人尼尔·加勒特(Neil Garrett)当时是伦敦大学学院的一名博士生。杜克大学(Duke University)的丹·阿雷利(Dan Ariely)和伦敦大学学院的斯蒂芬妮·C·拉扎罗(Stephanie C. Lazzaro)也是该研究报告的作者。

Christian Ruff, a professor of decision neuroscience at the University of Zurich, noted that in previous research, it had been “really, really difficult to characterize the neural processes that underlie purposeful lying.”

苏黎世大学(University of Zurich)决策神经科学教授克里斯蒂安·拉夫(Christian Ruff)指出,在以往的研究中,一直“非常非常难以描绘故意撒谎背后的神经变化过程”。

The new study, he said, provided one way of doing that, and showed the importance of considering the emotional component of dishonesty.

他说,这项新研究提供了一种做这件事的方法,还表明了研究不诚实所包含的情感成分的重要性。

Amitai Shenhav, a psychologist at Brown University who has studied moral decision-making, also praised the study, calling it “nicely executed.”

布朗大学(Brown University)致力于研究道德决策问题的心理学家阿米塔伊·舍恩霍(Amitai Shenhav)也赞扬了这项研究,说它“开展得很好”。

He said the findings were “suggestive of a slippery slope.” But he added that it was still not entirely clear what was driving people down that slope.

他说研究结果“会让人联想起滑坡谬误”。但他还表示,目前尚未完全弄清是什么驱使着人们一路滑坡。

For example, Dr. Shenhav said, it could be that the act of lying by itself increased the propensity for acting dishonestly, “like gradually pushing our foot off a brake.” Or that the subjects, who were not punished in any way for their dishonesty, concluded that lying in that environment was not so bad.

舍恩霍博士说,例如,可能是撒谎行为本身增强了不诚实行事的倾向,“就像逐渐让脚离开刹车板一样。”又或者,受试者反正不会因为不诚实而受到任何惩罚,所以得出了在那种环境里撒谎并没有多糟糕的结论。

“We need to be cautious when generalizing to real-world dishonesty that is typically associated with threats of reprimand” or damage to someone’s reputation, he said.

他说,“现实世界里的不诚实通常会牵涉到遭受谴责的危险”或者某人名誉受损的可能性,“我们在把研究结论推广到现实世界的时候一定要分外小心”。

In the study, the subjects — 80 adults, most of them university students — were asked to help the unseen partner guess the number of pennies in the jar. The partner, the subject was told, would then tell the researchers the guess. (The partner was in reality a confederate of the scientists.)

研究对象是80名成年人,大部分是大学生。研究者要求研究对象帮助看不见的搭档猜测罐子里钱币的数量,并告知研究对象,他的搭档会把他猜出的数字告诉研究者(这位搭档实际上是这些科学家的合作者)。

In some cases, the subjects were given an incentive to lie: They were told that they would be paid more if their partners overestimated the money in the jar, and that the higher the overestimation, the more they would be paid. Their partners’ payments, however, would depend on how accurate the estimates were.

有时,研究者会采取措施鼓励研究对象撒谎:他们告知研究对象,如果他们的搭档高估了罐子中钱币的数量,他们将获得更多酬劳,高估得越多,酬劳越多。不过,他们搭档的酬金将取决于估测数量的准确度。

In other cases, the participants were told that both they and their partners would be paid more for overestimating the number of pennies; still others were told that their payments depended on the accuracy of the estimates, while their partners would be paid more for overestimating.

在其他一些时候,参与者被告知,他们和搭档都将因高估钱币数量而获得更多酬劳。还有些时候,参与者被告知,他们的酬劳将取决于估测数量的准确度,而他们的搭档会因高估而获得更多酬劳。

Dr. Garrett said he hoped that the study could be repeated in other, more realistic settings, and that another study could be done to look at what might stop people from escalating their dishonesty.

加勒特博士称,他希望这项研究能在其他更现实的环境中重复,还说可以再做一项研究,观察怎样才能阻止人们变得更不诚实。

“How do you stop it? How do you prevent it?” he asked.

“怎么去阻止?怎么去预防?”他问道。

But Dr. Ruff said that if the findings from this study held up, the message seemed clear.

不过拉夫博士称,如果这项研究的结果经得起考验,那么结论似乎很明确。

“The implication is that we should watch out that we don’t tolerate lies, in order to prevent people from lying when it really matters,” he said.

“那就意味着,我们必须密切注意,不要容忍谎言,以免人们在真正重要的时候撒谎,”他说。

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