The Role of Reward System in Dishonest Behavior: A Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Study.

Research paper by Yibiao Y Liang, Genyue G Fu, Runxin R Yu, Yue Y Bi, Xiao Pan XP Ding

Indexed on: 04 Nov '20Published on: 03 Nov '20Published in: Brain Topography


Previous studies showed that the cortical reward system plays an important role in deceptive behavior. However, how the reward system activates during the whole course of dishonest behavior and how it affects dishonest decisions remain unclear. The current study investigated these questions. One hundred and two participants were included in the final analysis. They completed two tasks: monetary incentive delay (MID) task and an honesty task. The MID task served as the localizer task and the honesty task was used to measure participants' deceptive behaviors. Participants' spontaneous responses in the honesty task were categorized into three conditions: Correct-Truth condition (tell the truth after guessing correctly), Incorrect-Truth condition (tell the truth after guessing incorrectly), and Incorrect-Lie condition (tell lies after guessing incorrectly). To reduce contamination from neighboring functional regions as well as to increase sensitivity to small effects (Powell et al., Devel Sci 21:e12595, 2018), we adopted the individual functional channel of interest (fCOI) approach to analyze the data. Specially, we identified the channels of interest in the MID task in individual participants and then applied them to the honesty task. The result suggested that the reward system showed different activation patterns during different phases: In the pre-decision phase, the reward system was activated with the winning of the reward. During the decision and feedback phase, the reward system was activated when people made the decisions to be dishonest and when they evaluated the outcome of their decisions. Furthermore, the result showed that neural activity of the reward system toward the outcome of their decision was related to subsequent dishonest behaviors. Thus, the present study confirmed the important role of the reward system in deception. These results can also shed light on how one could use neuroimaging techniques to perform lie-detection.