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Study: Magnets Can Make You Less Likely to Lie

New research from Estonian scientists Inga Karton and Talis Bachmann shows that lying can be somewhat impeded by magnetic fields applied to specific areas of the brain. As crazy as that sounds, it is built upon previous work that showed that part of the brain acts as a moral compass and can be influenced by magnetic fields.

So, first with the caveats: In their research, participants subjected to the magnetic fields could still lie, they were just less likely to do so in a spontaneous situation. In the experiment, 16 subjects were shown colored discs and told that they could either lie or tell the truth about what color they saw. The researchers then applied transcranial magnetic stimulation to the left or right dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and observed the results.

They found that the magnetic stimulation seemed to sway the response of the participants toward more truth-telling or lying. Respondents whose left side was stimulated lied more often, whereas those with right-side stimulation lied less often.

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, it’s important to note that while the study is interesting, it certainly doesn’t mean the total defeat of deception. As stated above, respondents could still lie, and did lie, just less often than before. The experiment also used a small group, and will need to be replicated on a much larger scale to see how deep the correlation goes.

More importantly, the experiment presented respondents with a situation where they had no motivation to lie. Indeed, the experiment was designed to observe the spontaneous act of lying. Were the respondents to be more emotionally invested, perhaps with something to lose or gain, the results would be different.

With those grains of salt soundly taken, the research does further the idea that the human sense of morality has a specific place in the brain. Which, of course, means that it can be somewhat manipulated. Fun times ahead!

(Slashdot, PopSci, image via Wikimedia)

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