I read an article in Time magazine online that talked about using an fMRI brain scan as a lie detector. They say that certain parts of the brain are actively involved in creating a deception, while people who are honest have calm brain reactions to a situation.
The opening of the article is what caught my attention. If you are going to do a study about honesty, first you have to establish ‘What is honesty?’
“Consider this scenario: a shopkeeper mistakenly returns an extra $10 in change to a customer. In one outcome, the customer returns the money promptly, without pause. In another, he hesitates for just a second, thinks about pocketing the 10 bucks, then decides to give it back. Which is true honesty?”
This is something I feel I face, but on a smaller daily scale with students. The first situation is the true honesty. They act without considering there could be an alternative to the ending.
The second outcome is almost worse than outright deception. By pausing, they are weighing the situation. What are the odds of getting caught? What are the benefits? What are the risks? What is the motivation? They do not act until they are sure they are acting in their own best interest. Depending on all the variables, sometimes they would return the money to the shopkeeper, and sometimes they would smile and wish the shopkeeper a nice day.
What does this mean? Greene suggests that in some circumstances, real honesty is not about overcoming the temptation to lie but about not having to deal with that temptation in the first place. On an fMRI image, at least, the lying brain may look no different from one that’s simply contemplating whether to lie.”
Science says that true honestly would never consider lying. This is how I was raised and it continues to frustrate people around me – I feel guilty if I get something for free. Because of my belief in unwavering honesty, I really really hate being lied to by students. I get even more frustrated when I watch them do it than get lied to. After the inital “I didn’t do it” science would group them in the dishonest group. Even if they repent and confess later, they still had to think about whether to be honest or not.
Most teachers do not need a fMRI to know what is going on in a student’s mind, so being lied to only makes the situation worse. Do the right thing, give the $10 back. If you are so desperate for money you need the ficticious money, I hope I have a good enough repore with my students that they would come and talk to me.