Why Liars Tell Lies

      December 06, 2007 06:34

      Even after she fled to the U.S. in July, degree falsifier and former Dongguk University assistant professor Shin Jeong-ah insisted that she had obtained a Ph.D from Yale University. "In Korea, everybody calls me a liar or a psychopath," she said. "But in my view, all of them (in Korea) are insane. I'm very upset and annoyed." Even after her claims were proved bogus, Shin still insisted on her innocence. It's hard for normal people to understand her audacity. Experts explain her behavior as "pseudologia fantastica" -- when liars believe in their own lies. Liars like these can even pass lie detector tests. Only when they are confronted with objective evidence will they acknowledge their lies to be untrue.

      In an experiment, Prof. Daniel Pollack of the University of Washington had 140 people tell lies. He repeatedly asked the subjects if they had told lies and had them keep telling lies in reply. The outcome showed that 10 percent of the subjects came to eventually believe in their lies. It's like erasing old computer files by superimposing new ones over top of them. This was the gist of a study he presented at an annual seminar of the American Psychological Association in May.

      The limbic system, which sits in the lower sides of the brain, is a set of brain structures that support a variety of functions, such as instincts and emotions. Habitual liars or con artists have an abnormal limbic structure. This abnormal structure affects the cerebrum cortex and frontal lobe -- the storehouses of memories -- making the liars or con artists believe in their own lies. A research team at the University of Southern California used Magnetic Resonance Imaging to explore the brain structure of pathological liars and those who exhibited signs of antisocial personality disorder. Liars had a 22 percent greater amount of prefrontal white matter compared to the normal controls. Pathological liars feel pleasure when they lie or cheat, the research showed.

      The buzzword for this year's presidential election -- "a final stroke" -- will likely end up merely as empty talk. Prosecutors on Wednesday announced that former BBK president Kim Kyung-joon's allegations against Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak were all lies. Contrary to his previous claims that BBK belonged to Lee, Kim testified at the prosecutors' office that he himself had full ownership of BBK. According to prosecutors, Kim also admitted having forged the under-the-table contracts a year after the real contract was signed. We now feel empty because the entire society had been stunned by Kim's allegations.

      Psychiatrists used the term "narcissistic personality" to explain why Kim attempted to implicate the presidential front-runner of his fatherland in his scam. Those with a personality like this tend to believe that they are special people at the center of the world who enjoy limitless creativity and successes, like Narcissus in the Greek myth. They tend to use real famous and powerful figures as tools to satisfy their own narcissism. But Kim underrated Korea's prosecutors. His lies were debunked by the evidence, records and expert analysis of the false documents conducted by the prosecutors.

      By Chosun Ilbo columnist Moon Gab-sik

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