Brain activity exposes promise-breakers

Brain activity exposes promise-breakers

Patterns of brain activity can tell when you are likely to break a promise, says a new study.


Published: Sat 12 Dec 2009, 11:39 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:39 AM

Brain activity suggests that breaking a promise spurs an emotional conflict in the violator owing to the suppression of an honest response.

Besides, the most important finding of the study enabled researchers to show that “perfidious” patterns of brain activity even allow the prediction of future behaviour.

Little is known about brain mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. So neuroscientist Thomas Baumgartner and economist Ernst Fehr of Zurich University and Urs Fischbacher of Konstanz University, carried out brain scans during a social interaction experiment.

Indeed, experimental subjects who ultimately keep a promise and those who eventually break one, act exactly the same at the time the promise is made—both swear to keep their word.

Brain activity at this stage, however, often exposes the subsequent promise breakers.

Businessmen, politicians, diplomats, attorneys and even ordinary people don’t always behave honestly, as recent financial scams have dramatically demonstrated, says a Zurich University release.

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