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cheating. “Here we give people a chance to steal lots of money, and people cheat only a little bit. So something stops us—most of us—from not lying all the way,” Ariely says. The reason, ac- cording to him, is that we want to see ourselves as honest, because we have, to some degree, in- ternalized honesty as a value taught to us by soci- ety. Which is why, unless one is a sociopath, most of us place limits on how much we are willing to lie. How far most of us are willing to go—Ariely and others have shown—is determined by social norms arrived at through unspoken consensus, like the tacit acceptability of taking a few pencils home from the office supply cabinet. patricK couwenBerg’S StaFF and fellow judges in the Los Angeles County Superior Court believed he was an American hero. By his ac- count, he had been awarded a Purple Heart in Vietnam. He’d participated in covert operations for the Central Intelligence Agency. The judge boasted of an impressive educational back- ground as well—an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s degree in psychology. None of it was true. When confronted, Couwen- berg’s defense was to blame a condition called pseudologia fantastica, a tendency to tell stories containing facts interwoven with fantasy. The argument didn’t save him from being removed from the bench in 2001. There appears to be no agreement among psy- chiatrists about the relationship between mental health and lying, even though people with cer- tain psychiatric disorders seem to exhibit specific lying behaviors. Sociopathic individuals—those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder— tend to tell manipulative lies, while narcissists may tell falsehoods to boost their image. But is there anything unique about the brains of individuals who lie more than others? In 2005 psychologist Yaling Yang and her colleagues compared the brain scans of three groups: 12 adults with a history of repeated lying, 16 who met the criteria for antisocial personality disor- der but were not frequent liars, and 21 who were neither antisocial nor had a lying habit. The researchers found that the liars had at least 20 percent more neural fibers by volume in their prefrontal cortices, suggesting that habitual liars have greater connectivity within their brains. It’s possible this predisposes them to lying because they can think up lies more readily than others, it was a gruesome crime: In 1918 Bolshevik revolutionaries executed Russian tsar Nicholas II, the empress, and their five children. But did Anas- tasia, the youngest daughter, escape? Several impersonators exploited this hope, most famously Anna Anderson, an Anastasia look-alike who filed an unsuccessful suit in 1938 to try to prove her identity—and claim an inheritance. Anderson, who had supporters as well as detractors, died in 1984. A post- humous DNA test found she was unre- lated to the Romanovs and appeared to confirm she was a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska. joan lowell: “Any damn fool can be accurate—and dull.” Lowell famously fabricated her best- selling 1929 memoir, The Cradle of the Deep, about childhood adventures aboard a schooner with her sea captain father. han van meegeren: “It was awfully hard work.” The modestly talented 20th-century Dutch artist pocketed millions of dol- lars for his forged Vermeer paintings, which he baked in an oven to make the fresh paint look centuries old. identity theft other famous fibs Many made claims to be the grand duchess of Russia, but all of them were frauds.