Investigating socio-cognitive processes in deception: a quantitative meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies

Neuropsychologia. 2014 Aug:61:113-22. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.06.001. Epub 2014 Jun 12.


Recent neuroimaging studies have found a broad network of brain regions involved in deception, including the prefrontal cortex, insula, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and inferior parietal lobule (IPL). Although deception can be conceptualized as the attempt to deliberately cause another person to accept a false belief, research to date has mainly focused on executive control processes when participants are instructed to lie under certain conditions. Recently, more ecologically valid and interactive experimental paradigms have been used in which subjects were also requested to take the perspective of another person, read his or her intentions, and make a self-determined decision to deceive that person and break a moral rule. To investigate the influence of these socio-cognitive processes on the neural network of deception, we performed a quantitative meta-analysis combining the data from 416 participants across 22 fMRI and two PET studies. Based on the description of the experimental paradigm, studies were divided in social interactive and non-interactive deception studies. Increased activation in the dorsal ACC, the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ)/angular gyrus, and the bilateral temporal pole (TP) was found to be greater in social interactive than in non-interactive deception. These results demonstrate the important role of perspective taking, theory of mind, and moral reasoning processes in deception as well as conflict processing. In addition to the role of executive control processes determined by previous meta-analyses, our findings show the importance of these socio-cognitive processes in deception and give new insight into the function and interpretation of the brain regions involved.

Keywords: Deception; FMRI; Meta-analysis; Social cognition; Volition.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Deception*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Morals
  • Positron-Emission Tomography