If you’re currently dating someone who cheated on you, I’m sorry that you have come to this article. But hey, the truth hurts so why not face it head on, right?
The phrase “once a cheater, always a cheater” has been floating around the relationship space for decades, and whether you believe it’s validity or not, there is a whole lot of fact to back it up.
According to a new study, there is a link between the brain and dishonesty that sums up why cheaters continue with their shady ways. This paper, entitled “The Brain Adapts to Dishonesty,” says that as people lie, their brains become more and more comfortable with it as time goes on.
It’s in the section of the brain called the amygdala that there is a negative response every time a person is dishonest; however, this response has shown to weaken over time.
According to the study, “We speculate that the blunted response to repeated acts of dishonesty may reflect a reduction in the emotional response to these decisions or to their affective assessment and saliency.”
Speaking to Neil Garrett, the co-author of this paper and researcher for Princeton Neuroscience Institute, these findings would need to be specifically tested on relationships.
“The idea would be the first time we commit adultery we feel bad about it. But the next time we feel less bad and so on, with the result that we can commit adultery to a greater extent,” Garrett said.
He also added, “What our study and others suggest is a powerful factor that prevents us from cheating is our emotional reaction to it, how bad we feel, essentially, and the process of adaptation reduces this reaction, thereby allowing us to cheat more. With serial cheaters, it could be the case that they initially felt bad about cheating, but have cheated so much they’ve adapted to their ways and simply don’t feel bad about cheating anymore. Another possibility is that they never felt bad about cheating to begin with, so they didn’t need adaptation to occur; they were comfortable with it from the get-go.”
So, according to the findings, the little lies that we tell here and there can all add up and cause us to become way more comfortable with larger lies than we ever should be.
Garrett mentioned that the study would need to be altered in order to assess what kind of impact cheating has on the amygdala.
“I think one of the key differences would be that cheating in relationships often takes place over shorter timescales than in my study. So whether adaptation takes place at slower time scales and whether it generalizes to other types of behavior we find aversive like adultery, violence, etc. are the key two things we’d need to test to start to answer this,” he said.
The whole conclusion of this study was decided after an experiment that tested the capacity to lie in their participants. In the study, participants were set up in pairs. One was given a jar full of coins while the other was given a blurry image of the same jar.
The one with the clear view of the jar had to help the other with the blurry view. However, they were then told that they would receive a financial reward if their partner overestimated the number. This caused them to be more likely to lie.
So, if you are dating a known cheat, it might be time to cut ties. And if you ARE the cheat, you may want to practice not lying on a daily basis.