The meaning of many of our behaviors depends on the context . Lying is one of them. That is why there are white lies, for example. Lying at the police station is not the same as lying to a friend if their chocolate cake tastes bad.
In fact, telling an unpleasant truth to someone we deem activates the middle prefrontal cortex , in addition to the insula (which plays an important role in the experience of pain and the experience of a large number of basic emotions, including hate, love, fear. , disgust, happiness and sadness), which shows how complex the biology of honesty is .
Biology of honesty
The very nature of the evolutionary competitive games of the human species has led to selection for both deception and surveillance against it. Other animals have also been selected to deceive , although in a more crude way, such as some ungulates, or birds, such as the plover, which pretend to be injured to drive away a predator from its nest.
For example, when a dog is terrified, fear pheromones emanate from his anal scent gland, and the dog can try to neutralize their spread so that his fear is not noticed simply by covering those glands by placing his tail between his legs, as Robert explains. Sapolsky in his book Behavioral , which also gives the following example:
If there is a good source of food and a high-ranking animal is nearby, the capuchins give the alarm that informs of the presence of a predator to distract the other individual; if it is a low-ranking individual there is no need to do so; you just take the food.
Since deception requires great social experience in all primate species, a larger neocortex predicts higher rates of deception , regardless of group size. Yes, our brains are wired to cheat, to be dishonest.
Humans, however, are the only ones we know for sure who are aware that they cheat, that they choose to do it or not, and most importantly, that they feel dirty doing it. Being dishonest is a serious social blemish , so our brains have also evolved to feel disgusted by such dishonesty, both our own and others.
In other words: we can carry out certain tactical deceptions on a social level, but an average brain would also feel moral disgust if he himself cheated too blatantly, unnecessarily, or dishonestly. That is, we are made to cheat, but also not to do it too much lest we feel bad about it .
Ultimately, then, it is not about black and white, about lying or telling the truth, but about "refining" the truth . I tell you in more depth about it, alluding to a study that empirically verified it with a series of dice rolls in the following video: