Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Creative lying

The New Scientist reports on a recent study connecting lying and increased brain activity:

Our brains are naturally better at telling the truth than lying, but repeated lying can overcome our tendency for veracity, making subsequent lying easier – and possibly undetectable.

Neuroimaging studies have shown that people's brains show considerably more activity when they are lying than when they are not, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, suggesting that lying requires extra cognitive control and inhibition of truth-telling. Lying also takes measurably longer than telling the truth.

Is it possible that good sci-fi and fantasy writers who necessarily have to lie to tell a good story overcome their natural truth-telling "deficiency"? This may also be true of inventors who usually get better at creating new ideas as they move from specific implementations to wider concepts.

On the other hand, consistent use of models, or abstract representations, helps reconcile imagination with the reality because a new idea my represent a "lie" in today's world, but be "truthful" in a future world defined by the model. For example, the Earth's rotation around the Sun is a "lie" in everyday experience, but "truth" in Copernicus' heliocentric planetary system. Reconciliation between these two systems of beliefs has taken over three hundred years, probably because we, the learners, are hardwired to tell "truth."

tags: dilemma, creativity, problem, trade-off, imagination, method, control

Bruno Verschuere, Adriaan Spruyt, Ewout H. Meijer, Henry Otgaar, The ease of lying, Consciousness and Cognition, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 18 November 2010, ISSN 1053-8100, DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.10.023.

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