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With Thermal Cameras, Liars Look Less Like Pinocchio, More Like Rudolph.

Liars everywhere take comfort in the fact that, unlike a certain cartoon marionette, our noses do not grow when
we fib. However, they may not be completely off the hook.

New data from researchers at the University of Grenada suggests that lying is associated with an increase in the nose’s temperature, as measured by a thermal camera. This phenomenon, aptly referred to as the “Pinocchio effect” is thought to arise via activation of the insula, part of the brain’s cerebral cortex. As POPSI describes, “The insula is believed to control both emotion and body temperature (among other things, like consciousness and pH), and the researchers found a strong negative correlation between insula activity and temperature increase. They also found that feelings of high anxiety tend to increase facial temperature.”

Thermal cameras measure the amount of radiation emitted by an object to create a color representation of its temperature.

To the naked eye, this effect is not as conspicuous as a swollen schnoz…but liars should proceed with caution–you never know when someone might be carrying a thermal camera.

Read POPSCI’s summary of the research here!

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Caitlin Shure

    Caitlin is a contributor to the Secret Life blog. She is also a student at Columbia Journalism School, completing her master’s degree in science journalism. Caitlin does not love all science equally; favorite topics of rumination include neuroscience, genetics, and evolutionary theory. Caitlin draws inspiration from James Watson and Rupaul Andre Charles.