Liar, Liar: How the Brain Adapts to Telling Tall Tales

As the U.S. presidential campaign has highlighted, the more a person lies, the easier it seems to become. But politics is not the only realm where dishonesty abounds. In 1996 Bernard Bradstreet, co-chief executive of the technology company Kurzweil Applied Intelligence was sentenced to jail for fraud. His initial transgressions were relatively minor: To boost quarterly accounts he allowed sales that had not quite been closed to go on the books. But before long customers’ signatures were being forged, documents altered and millions of dollars in fake sales reported—allowing the company to show profits when it was losing money while investors paid millions for company stocks. Similar tales emerged after the Enron scandal, one of the largest bankruptcy cases in U.S. history. Anecdotal reports of dishonesty escalating over time are…


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