Study: "Pinocchio Effect" of Lying is Real
December 10, 2012
Pinocchio, it turns out, was no fib.
Everybody knows the story of the wooden puppet whose nose grows whenever he tells a lie. It turns out the truth is almost as strange as fiction. When real-live boys (and girls, and grownups) stray from the truth, their noses and orbital muscles become hot, according to scientists at the University of Granada in Spain.
Researchers Emilio Gómez Milán and Elvira Salazar López have used thermographic cameras – which detect body temperature – to record people as they discuss subjective experiences, when they perform different dances, and when they become sexually aroused.
The goal was to document what happens in the brain when people experience subjective and difficult to describe emotions.
When they turned their attention to the truth, they found that when people weren't completely honest, the temperature in the muscles around the nose and the eyes heated up while other areas of the face cooled.
At the same time, deep inside the cerebral cortex of the brain, the insular cortex – which controls emotions, blood pressure during exercise, and perception of pain – spiked in activity perhaps due to negative or conflicted feelings.
Gómez believes the activity in the insular cortex triggered by lying in turn prompts a physiological change. “Because the insula aids in the regulation of body temperature," he told NBC News, "it comes as little surprise that body temperature increases during emotional experiences."
So the next time you suspect your little one isn't being quite as forthcoming as she could, check to see if her schnoz is running a little hot. At the very least your strange behavior could eke the truth out of her.
Have you noticed any other physiological or behavioral ticks that accompany fibbing in your kids? Let us know in the comments.