Richard comeshome from a night of heavy drinking with his friends.
He falls asleep and wakesup the next morning not remembering what he did last night. Richard’s partnerwould like to know where he was and what he was doing. Richard failing toremember anything from last night, makes up a plausible sounding story and hopeshis partner does not notice he is lying. He thinks he got away with it butsuddenly his partner wants him to retell his story but now backwards. Richardtries it but soon his story starts to sound very different and his partner figuresout he is lying. Vrij and colleagues (2008) converted this story into an experiment and foundthat by making participants tell their lie in reverse order, more cues todeceit emerged and observers could more easily distinguish between liars andtruth tellers. Their findings support the claim that lying is more cognitivelydemanding than telling the truth. Further evidence supporting this claim showsthat lying is accompanied with longer response latencies and a higher number oferrors (see Verschuere& De Houwer, 2011, for a review).
Brain imaging studies have alsoindicated that lying is associated with higher activation in the prefrontalcortex, a brain area linked to cognitive control and executive functioning (Abe, 2011; Christ, Van Essen,Watson, Brubaker, & McDermott, 2009; Farah, Hutchinson, Phelps, , 2014). Therefore, choosing to lie is often choosing to perform acognitively demanding task.When itcomes to executive functions, Miyake and colleagues (2000) distinguished three main components:shifting of mental sets, inhibition of prepotent responses and updating workingmemory. All three functions have been postulated to be involved in formulatinga deceptive response. Shifting might allow flexible switching between mentalsets associated with a truthful response and sets associated with a deceptiveresponse (Visu-Petra,Miclea, & Visu-Petra 2012; Visu-Petra, Varga, Miclea, & Visu-Petra, 2013). Lying involves withholding the truth and various lines of research havefound that the truth response is often the dominant response that is activatedfirst when lying. This then leads to a conflict between the truth response andthe deceptive response. Furthermore, evidence in line with this idea suggeststhat response inhibition is often needed in order to formulate a lie (Debey, Ridderinkhof, De Houwer, DeSchryver, & Verschuere, 2015; Duran, Dale, & McNamara, 2010; Hadar, Makris,& Yarrow, 2012, Vartanian et al.
, 2013). However, the truth can alsoplay a helpful role when lying. This rather counterintuitive hypothesis hasfound support in recent studies indicating that the truth does not always needto be inhibited and can remain active in working memory to help the formulationof a deceptive response (Ambach,Stark, & Vaitl, 2011; Debey, De Houwer, & Verschuere, 2014; Visu-Petraet al., 2012). In sum, the idea that lying is more cognitively demandingthan telling the truth has gained more interest over the last few years but manyquestions still remain.
The dominant idea assumes that cognitive control plays acrucial role in resolving the response conflict elicited by the automatic activationof the truth response.