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Humans 'Programmed To Spot Cheats'

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 668 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... HUMANS PROGRAMMED TO SPOT CHEATS BBC Tuesday, 13
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2002
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      NHNE News List
      Current Members: 668
      Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.


      Tuesday, 13 August, 2002


      People have a "detector" in their brains, which means they can spot
      individuals who cheat.

      There is a specific part of the brain that concentrates on "social exchange"
      which is not part of the general reasoning area.

      Scientists have found the same results in Westerners, and in a tribe from
      the remote Ecuadorian Amazon.

      Studies have suggested the "cheat-detector" lies within the limbic system, a
      part of the brain used for processing emotional and social information.

      They believe the trait developed in humans and apes as social behaviour
      became more complex.

      Researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara looked at one
      patient, known as R.M. who damaged this area of his brain in a cycling
      accident in 1974.

      He was able to successfully perform tasks which asked him to assess whether
      someone might be breaking a precautionary rule -- the rule was "if you
      engage in hazardous activity X, you must take precaution Y".

      But he fared less well in tests which used the same kind of logical thought
      process which were to do with assessing if an individual might be cheating
      on a social contract -- going by the rule "if you receive benefit X, you
      must fulfil requirement Y".

      The researchers said if R.M.'s general reasoning was poor, he would have
      performed badly in both tasks.


      The team then gave modified versions of the same tests to undergraduates
      from Harvard University and to members of the Shiwiar, who live in a remote
      region on the Ecuadorian Amazon almost entirely cut off from civilisation,
      to see if they had the same responses.

      The Shiwiar's ability to detect cheats was as good as that of the
      undergraduates, leading the scientists to conclude "cheat dectecting" was an
      evolutionary trait rather than a skill linked to complex social

      Both studies were published in the journal Proceedings of the National
      Academy of Sciences.

      Writing in the journal, the researchers led by Leda Cosmides from the Center
      for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara,
      said: "R.M.'s differential impairment indicates that being able to detect
      potential cheaters may be a separable component of the human mind."

      "Knowing how to engage in social exchange is an important aspect of human
      social intelligence.

      "It is difficult to imagine two populations that differ more than Shiwiar
      villagers and Harvard students in their exposure to Western-style schooling,
      word problems, the institution of science, or the concept of an experimental
      situation -- factors that are known to affect performance in cross-cultural
      studies of cognition."


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