“Pinocchio Effect” confirmed: lying affects the nose
Spanish researchers have confirmed the existence of a “Pinocchio Effect” when someone is fibbing. However, unlike the wooden puppet whose nose would increase in length when he uttered a lie, in real life, the subject’s nose is likely to increase in temperature.
University of Granada researchers Emilio Gómez Milán and Elvira Salazar López from the Department of Experimental Psychology are pioneers in applying thermography – a technique that detects body temperature in various areas – to psychology.
“Historic psychologist William James hypothesised in 1890 that temperature changes could determine cognitive domains. We have discovered that thermography can be used like a physiological marker of different mental states,” Elvira Salazar López told Laboratory News.
The researchers had previously discovered that with cerebral imaging, it was possible to distinguish when a person was lying from when they were telling the truth. But cerebral imaging using MRI is expensive, so the team wanted to see if thermography would represent a cheaper option to determining what a person is feeling or thinking.
The duo’s study involved thermographic imaging of volunteers who were instructed to lie at certain points during the experiment. The team’s results suggest that when we lie, the temperature around our nose rises, as well as the orbital muscle area in the inner area in the corner of the eyes.
When we experience true feeling (called “qualias”), the researchers state that a component of the brain called the insula is activated. The insula is a component of the brain’s reward system and is also associated with temperature regulation and detection.
“There is a large negative correlation between the activity of the insula and the magnitude of the temperature change. The more activity in the insular cortex (the more genuine the feeling), lower heat exchange occurs, and vice versa,” López explained.