Honest People Just Can’t Help It

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Good news! Honesty, it turns out, may not be something that we can control.

In a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists Joshua Greene and Joseph Paxton tried to determine whether honesty was a conscious process—something we can control—or whether it was something we couldn’t control, something that occurred automatically.

From Seed Magazine: “What they found is that honesty is an automatic process—but only for some people. Comparing scans from tests with and without the opportunity to cheat, the scientists found that for honest subjects, deciding to be honest took no extra brain activity. But for others, the dishonest group, both deciding to lie and deciding to tell the truth required extra activity in the areas of the brain associated with critical thinking and self-control.”

Hm. My next thought after reading this was this: Which group would fiction writers, who lie and tell the truth at the same time, fall into? And then my head exploded. (via)


Seth Fischer's writing has appeared in Best Sex Writing 2013, Buzzfeed, PankGuernica, Lunch Ticket, Gertrude, and elsewhere. His Rumpus piece "Notes from a Unicorn" was listed as a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2013. He will be a 2014 Lambda Literary Emerging Voicing Fellow and was a 2013 Jentel Arts Residency Program Fellow. He also teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles and Writing Workshops Los Angeles. Find more writing of his writing at www.seth-fischer.com, or reach him @sethfischer. More from this author →