Humans 'Programmed To Spot Cheats'
- NHNE News List
Current Members: 668
Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.
HUMANS 'PROGRAMMED TO SPOT CHEATS'
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
"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."
NHNE News List:
To subscribe, send a message to:
To unsubscribe, send a message to:
To review current posts:
Published by NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE)
NHNE Website: http://www.nhne.com/
Phone: (928) 282-6120
Fax: (815) 346-1492
Appreciate what we are doing?
You can say so with a tax-deductible donation:
P.O. Box 2242
Sedona, AZ 86339