The University of Southern California website reports on a study of pathological liars that shows the first evidence of structural differences in the area of the brain that enables most people to feel remorse. Brian Tucker posted the link on the Assembly bulletin board and made the following comments:
Even if a physical link between habitual lying and brain structure can be proven, it doesn't mean liars simply can't help it because they are wired that way. It just means they are wired to be very good at lying - should they choose to do so. But given all the short term benefits of really fantastic lying, I would think people who are great at it experience a much stronger compulsion to do so than the rest of us. Then again, maybe people who lie a lot from childhood develop more white matter than the rest of us over time. Correlation is not causation, but I think its interesting that a physical correlation exists.
An example we are all too familiar with would be George, who must be dripping with white matter, with just a hint of grey. And I have met other people like him, in business especially. They are great at making a quick buck, even better at losing it, and their personal lives are a complete wreck. It's a terrible strength to have.
Elizabeth (Geftakys) Henderson posted this reply:
Really fascinating study, Brian. I would also add that children who get away with lying during their childhood learn how to hone their lying skills. Even if they get caught occasionally, they simply learn how to adapt their lying skills, strengthening their ability to to tell more believable lies (their growing brains become physically altered). Once they realize they can actually fool people (their parents, for one) I would suggest it's a highly addictive behavior not easily broken.
From what I've gathered, George was a habitual liar even in childhood. Despite what may have been a true conversion experience at age 15, he had already developed a behavioral pattern that was by then already part of his personality.
What's most interesting is that pathological liars not only lie to others, but it begins with the lies they tell themselves. Truly brilliant liars are those who actually believe their own lies and will defend those lies as passionately as if they were truth.
But like you said, the lies eventually grow too large to contain and the state of George's personal and "professional" life is a terrifying example.
"Lying is the mother of all violence." --Gandhi
For more about liars, see the article, Malignant Narcissism: Quotations from M. Scott Peck's book, People of the Lie.