June 23, 2024

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The scientific reason that explains why people lie

The scientific reason that explains why people lie

Woman in a group. (Archives)

The human mind does not seek truth, it seeks to appear good. Their study has led us experts to uncomfortable conclusions, but it has helped us understand ourselves better.

The human mind is a wonder of nature. He could take us to the moon, and it won't take long to take us to Mars. Humanity has been able to explore and deeply understand the ends of the world, the solar system and the universe. Yes, the human mind is amazing. It is undoubtedly what makes us the most intelligent species on the planet. But it's not perfect. It is the same mind that, when manufacturing large aircraft such as the Airbus A380, which can accommodate more than 500 passengers and has great engineering, deletes the number 13 from the row of seats because it is “bad luck.”

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In order to understand why this happens, we need to know the whole truth about our brain. This implies verifying that the processes behind our decisions are mostly – if not all – subconscious.

In the 1970s, psychologist Benjamin Libet demonstrated that what we call free will was not what we had imagined it to be. Electrodes placed in the appropriate place on the participants' heads allowed him to discover that the brain initiated the actions some time before they were aware of the decision to carry them out.

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When we make a decision, we believe we have weighed the pros and cons, and matured our response. But experiments show that usually, We don't know exactly what prompted us to make this decision. The usual thing, in fact, is that the reasons that prompt us to do what we do are a posteriori; That is, we justify our actions once they are completed. The evidence also indicates this We defend our decisions above all elseAlthough we do not know what led us to them.

This way of existence of our brain was called “translator”. With this name, the expert in the study of the mind, Michael Gazzaniga, highlighted that the brain constantly interprets reality and finds a reason for all things. But he also does not care whether his interpretation is correct or not: it is enough for him that it is satisfactory, and apparently good.

Gazzaniga discovered this when studying patients whose brains had been surgically divided into Separate hemispheres The result of treatment against recurrent epileptic seizures.

Each hemisphere perceives and acts on its hemisphere. The left mainly perceives what is to our right, while what is to our left is processed by the right. Likewise, the left hemisphere controls the right hand, and the right hemisphere controls the left hand.

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Furthermore, when we speak, we do so primarily with the left hemisphere, so with the split brain it is as if we have two people, one of whom speaks and the other who does not utter a word.

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In Gazzaniga's experiments, when the patient's right hemisphere saw an object and was asked to choose an associated image, the left hand chose the correct image. The left half, which was speaking, was observing the action without having the slightest idea why that was the correct image. But when the patient was asked why he took that photo, the left hemisphere responded by making up the reason. He was never right, for he was never fully aware of the truth, but he was determined to provide an explanation, however far-fetched.

It turns out that this mechanism is very human, and not just typical of people with divided minds. All of humanity works this way in its daily reality.

It is interesting to note that the translator never says “I don't know.” Saying “I don't know” doesn't seem like the most humane response, even though it is the most logical in principle. This is especially true when it comes to justifying our actions.

The truth is not the most important thing, but rather a somewhat acceptable explanation. Acceptable to himself and others, even if it is not true. As Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber argue, the thinking strategies our species uses did not evolve to arrive at the truth, but to convince others that we are right.

The explanation for all of this, as I explained in my last book, is this Our brain is very social. It has become great not to take us to the moon, but to face the great challenges of living in society, of living with a large number of individuals with whom we sometimes cooperate and sometimes compete.

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In these circumstances, the usual thing is that we cannot afford to waste time, rather… Make quick and effective decisions,Automatically,weighs several reasons at the same time. Among the majority, we will be little or not aware, because awareness will require a lot of time and effort. It doesn't matter, we will find a way to justify ourselves if the thing we did seems wrong in the eyes of others. This is the goal of the interpreter: to preserve at all costs something as valuable as our self-respect.

* Manuel Martin Lucches Garrido is Professor of Psychobiology at the Complutense University of Madrid