Deception is commonly seen in everyday social interactions. However, most of the knowledge about the underlying neural mechanism of deception comes from studies where participants were instructed when and how to lie. To study spontaneous deception, we designed a guessing game modeled after Greene and Paxton (2009) “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(30), 12506–12511”, in which lying is the only way to achieve the performance level needed to end the game. We recorded neural responses during the game using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). We found that when compared to truth-telling, spontaneous deception, like instructed deception, engenders greater involvement of such prefrontal regions as the left superior frontal gyrus. We also found that the correct-truth trials produced greater neural activities in the left middle frontal gyrus and right superior frontal gyrus than the incorrect-truth trials, suggesting the involvement of the reward system. Furthermore, the present study confirmed the feasibility of using NIRS to study spontaneous deception.Highlights
★ We examined neural correlates of spontaneous deception. ★ Participants participated in a game where they were motivated to lie spontaneously. ★ Spontaneous deception is an executive functioning intensive task. ★ The reward system is also involved in spontaneous deception. ★ We confirmed the feasibility of using NIRS to study deception.