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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Anatomy of Deception: A Literature Review of the Neurobiological Basis, Underlying Cognitive Processes, and Motivations that Facilitate Lying


Deception is a cognitive-demanding process that entails more than one executive function and is thus associated with an increase in neural activity in specific regions of the brain. The purpose of this review of literature is to highlight the neural networks that facilitate deception, in addition to identifying the motives and conditions that increase one’s likelihood to deceive.

This research aims to discuss the neuropsychological evidence of brain structures that subserve human deceptive behavior, especially with an emphasis on the role of the prefrontal cortex and its executive functions. This research is of importance to the field of psychology, as it offers insight into the nature of deception by considering the neural processes involved in different aspects of deception, such as the preparation to lie, intention, and context that is eliciting the need or likelihood to resort to deception. This review of literature will further advance neuroimaging research, because it contributes to the ongoing discussion regarding neuroimaging techniques as a valid instrument for deception detection in the fields of forensic psychology and psychiatry.

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