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“He who tells a lie is not sensible of how great a task he undertakes; for he must be forced to invent twenty more to maintain that one” – Alexander Pope. But getting off the hook is a task harder than anticipated and the twenty extras can go unmatched; the Pinocchio effect sits on some solid scientific support!

What is Pinocchio Effect?

When a person lies, the temperature around his nose and eyes (specifically the orbital muscle in the internal corner) tends to go high; the remaining facial parts remain cool. This peculiar phenomenon is termed as the Pinocchio Effect. The stimuli set for the phenomenon does not confine to mere fibbing; episodes of anxiety attacks can also spike up the nasal temperature!

efecto pinocho
Thermography shows an increase in nasal temperature when a person lies.
(Image courtesy: University of Granada)

Elvira Salazar López and Emilio Gómez Milán, researchers from Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Granada, Spain, in an effort to establish novel applications of thermography (a technique to detect body temperature patterns using infrared camera) in the field of cognitive neuropsychology, conducted a study on few volunteers. The volunteers were instructed to lie at given points of the experiment and their themographic imaging helped in deriving the conclusions.

“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,”  states Elvira Salazar López, as reported by Laboratory News.

Researchers Emilio Gómez Milán and Elvira Salazar López (Image courtesy : University of Granada)

More on Lies!

Lies vary in types; lying on facts and lying on feelings. A lie on feelings can induce the following:

1.A hike in the temperature around the nose.

2.Activation of the brain element Insula.

*Insula is a part of the brain rewarding system that gets activated with the qualias (real feelings like pain, enjoyment of music and tasting of wine).

Pinocchio Effect on a preschool boy

In another study conducted by Emilio Gómez Milán and Carmen Huertas, a preschool boy (4 year old) was monitored to authenticate the Pinocchio effect. The boy was made to play a Tippit model game with the researcher. The researcher hides a stone in one hand, clenches both hands and makes the boy guess the hand in which the stone is hidden. Prior to making the guess, the boy has to ask whether the stone is in a particular hand and the answer “yes,” should make him point to the other hand as the researcher always lies.

The boy, after 4 different trials, picked the logic and the roles were reversed where the boy hid the stone and the researcher had to guess the hand. In the reversed role, the boy was made to lie (as demonstrated by the researcher) and his thermographed image noted a change in his nasal temperature while lying.

Polygraphs vs. Thermal Imaging in Lie Detection

Polygraphs (commonly known as ‘lie detector test’) have been the superstars in the field of lie detection over the years. It uses physiological indicators like pulse, respiration and blood pressure to gauge the respondents’ answers and identifies lies accordingly. The emergence of thermal imaging technology in lie detection, however, has few pros to list, as against polygraphs.

Polygraphs require an expert to analyse the results and the time thus consumed is high. In the case of thermographs, all you need is an infrared camera that measures the temperature. The results are direct and need no further analytical skills.

Polygraphs call for the cooperation of the individual subjected to lie detection as sensors need to be connected to his body. Thermography can be done without the cooperation or knowledge of the subject and is always a great option when a breach of trust is suspected.

Other interesting and vital applications of thermography

Thermographer, Temperature Meter, Thermography

Apart from lie detection, thermography can be applied in multiple ways and fields.

Some of them are listed below:

  1. Thermography can be used to detect and screen several neurological disorders including Alzheimer disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson disease.
  2. It can diagnose breast cancer without the risks of radiations (like mammography).
  3. In an era of alarmingly rising cases of cardiac arrests, thermography can be used to detect cardiac issues as well.
  4. Suffering from toothaches periodically? Thermographs can tell you more about your dental issues.
  5. Thermography can even gauge sexual arousal! A recent study on sexual excitement in men and women, using thermography, reveals that men and women get equally aroused in the presence of sexual stimuli (though women often claim to be less excited; uh-oh, caught you!).