A Temporoparietal Junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) Theory Of Relationship Scams

Understanding how Scam Victim’s Core Beliefs are Manipulated

Psychology of Scams

By:
• Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
• Vianey Gonzalez – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

The right and left temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) of the human brain, crucial in social cognition, empathy, and narrative processing, may play a role in trusting narratives told by scammers in relationship scams. Scammers exploit this region by crafting stories that activate empathy and trust, manipulating victims into believing false narratives.

This activation may inhibit victims’ acceptance of the scam, creating inner conflict. Additionally, psychological trauma may alter RTPJ/LTPJ function, affecting emotion processing and self-awareness.

Protecting against false narratives involves reflection, skepticism, research, and trusting intuition. Understanding these brain mechanisms can aid both in scam prevention and supporting scam survivors in their recovery journey.

A Temporoparietal Junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) Theory Of Relationship Scams - 2023

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Does The Right And Left Temporoparietal Junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) Of The Human Brain Play A Role In Believing Narratives Or Stories Communicated To Scam Victims By Criminals In Trust-Based Relationship Scams Or Fraud?

Please Note: This article about the right and left temporoparietal junction is for educational purposes and is not intended to diagnose any disease or mental disorder. Understanding the functions of the human mind can have a large impact on both helping the public avoid scams and fraud, as well as helping the survivors of these crimes to better understand why they happened and for professionals to better aid in their recovery.

What are the Right and Left Temporoparietal Junction (RTPJ/LTPJ)

The right and left temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) is a region of the brain that is involved in a number of cognitive functions, including social cognition, empathy, and narrative processing. It is thought that the RTPJ/LTPJ plays a role in helping us to believe narratives or stories, including false stories that are communicated to us, especially when those narratives are told by people we trust.

According to Wikipedia:

The temporoparietal junction (TPJ) is an area of the brain where the temporal and parietal lobes meet, at the posterior end of the lateral sulcus (Sylvian fissure). The TPJ incorporates information from the thalamus and the limbic system as well as from the visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems. The TPJ also integrates information from both the external environment as well as from within the body. The TPJ is responsible for collecting all of this information and then processing it.

This area is also known to play a crucial role in self–other distinctions processes and theory of mind (ToM). Furthermore, damage to the TPJ has been implicated in having adverse effects on an individual’s ability to make moral decisions and has been known to produce out-of-body experiences (OBEs). Electromagnetic stimulation of the TPJ can also cause these effects. Apart from these diverse roles that the TPJ plays, it is also known for its involvement in a variety of widespread disorders including anxiety disorders, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia.

Much of the above understanding of the temporoparietal junction is based on the work of Dr. Rebecca Saxe of MIT

How Criminals May Exploit the Right and Left Temporoparietal Junction

Criminals in trust-based relationship scams or fraud often exploit the temporoparietal junction RTPJ/LTPJ by telling victims stories that are designed to elicit empathy and trust.

For example, a scammer may pose as a soldier fighting overseas and tell a victim that they need money to come home. Or, a scammer may pose as a romantic interest and tell a victim that they need money to help them through a difficult time.

These stories are often very believable, and they can be very effective at manipulating victims. This is because the stories activate the RTPJ/LTPJ, which is the part of the brain that helps us to understand and respond to the emotions of others.

When the temporoparietal junction RTPJ/LTPJ is activated, we are more likely to believe the stories that are being told to us, even if they are not true. This is because the RTPJ/LTPJ helps us to create a mental model of the situation, and this mental model can be biased by our emotions.

In the case of trust-based relationship scams or fraud, the scammer’s story is designed to elicit feelings of empathy and trust. These feelings then activate the RTPJ/LTPJ, which makes it more likely that the victim will believe the story and send money to the scammer.

Believing False Stories and the Temporoparietal Junction

How the right and left temporoparietal junction RTPJ/LTPJ functions in believing false stories

The temporoparietal junction RTPJ/LTPJ is involved in a number of processes that are important for believing stories.

  • First, it is involved in understanding the meaning of words and phrases. This allows us to understand the content of a story and to track the plot.
  • Second, the RTPJ/LTPJ is involved in inferring the intentions and emotions of others. This allows us to understand the characters in a story and to empathize with them.
  • Finally, the RTPJ/LTPJ is involved in creating mental models of the world. This allows us to imagine the events described in a story and to place them in the context of our own knowledge and experience.

When we hear a story, the RTPJ/LTPJ is activated and it begins to process the information. The RTPJ/LTPJ uses this information to create a mental model of the story. This mental model includes the characters, the setting, the plot, and the themes of the story.

If the story is believable, the RTPJ/LTPJ will create a mental model that is consistent with our own knowledge and experience. This will make us more likely to believe the story.

However, if the story is false, the RTPJ/LTPJ may still create a mental model of the story. This is because the RTPJ/LTPJ is not perfect at distinguishing between true and false information.

In fact, the temporoparietal junction RTPJ/LTPJ is more likely to create a mental model of a story if the story is emotionally engaging. This is because the RTPJ/LTPJ is highly sensitive to emotions.

Scammers appear to often exploit this by telling stories that are designed to elicit empathy and trust.

These stories are often very believable, and they can be very effective at manipulating victims. This is because the stories activate the RTPJ/LTPJ, which is the part of the brain that helps us to understand and respond to the emotions of others.

When the RTPJ/LTPJ is activated, we are more likely to believe the stories that are being told to us, even if they are not true. This is because the RTPJ/LTPJ helps us to create a mental model of the situation, and this mental model can be biased by our emotions.

The Relationship Between the Amygdala & the Temporoparietal Junction

It is possible that amygdala hijacks play a role in the activation or alteration of the right and left temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) functions in contributing to believing the false stories that scam victims receive from the criminals engaged in relationship scams.

The amygdala is a brain region that is involved in processing emotions, especially fear and aggression. The temporoparietal junction RTPJ/LTPJ is a brain region that is involved in processing social information, such as understanding the intentions and emotions of others.

When someone is experiencing an amygdala hijack (emotional hijack,) the amygdala takes over control of the brain and overrides other brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is involved in higher-order thinking processes, such as reasoning and decision-making.

When the amygdala is in control, it can be difficult to think clearly and rationally. This can make people more susceptible to manipulation and deception.

Scammers often use techniques that are designed to trigger an amygdala hijack in their victims and sustain these hijacks over time. For example, they may create a sense of urgency or fear in their victims. They may also use flattery or other forms of manipulation to gain their victims’ trust and then control them.

Once a scammer has gained a victim’s trust, they may start telling them stories that are designed to elicit empathy and compassion. These stories may be false or exaggerated, but they can be very effective at manipulating victims.

The amygdala hijack may play a role in making victims more likely to believe these stories. When the amygdala is in control, it can be difficult to think critically about the information that is being presented. This can make people more likely to accept false or misleading information.

In addition, the amygdala hijack may also alter the functions of the temporoparietal junction RTPJ/LTPJ. When the amygdala is in control, it can interfere with the ability of the RTPJ/LTPJ to function properly.

This can make it difficult for victims to accurately assess the intentions and emotions of the scammers. This can make them more likely to be deceived by the scammers’ stories.

It is important to note that more research is needed to understand the role of amygdala hijacks in relationship scams. However, the available evidence suggests that amygdala hijacks may play a role in making victims more susceptible to manipulation and deception.

The Role of the Temporoparietal Junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) and Processing Grief

The temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) also plays a role in the processing of grief.

It is thought that the RTPJ/LTPJ plays a role in helping us to process grief by allowing us to understand and respond to the emotional pain that we are feeling. But it may also help to prevent the processing of grief.

When we experience grief, the RTPJ/LTPJ is activated. This activation helps us to process the emotional pain of grief and to understand the loss that we have experienced. The RTPJ/LTPJ also helps us to empathize with others who are grieving and to provide them with support.

In addition, the RTPJ/LTPJ is involved in creating mental models of the world. This allows us to understand the events that have led to our loss and to place them in the context of our own knowledge and experience. The RTPJ/LTPJ also helps us to imagine the future without our loved one and to adjust to our new reality.

The RTPJ/LTPJ is an important brain region that plays a key role in the processing of grief. By understanding how the RTPJ/LTPJ works, we can better understand the grieving process and how to support those who are grieving.

Temporoparietal Junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) and Psychological Trauma

The temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) plays a role in many psychological processes, including an important brain region involved in the processing of psychological trauma.

Here are some specific ways in which the RTPJ/LTPJ plays a role in psychological trauma:

  • Processing trauma-related memories: The RTPJ/LTPJ is involved in the processing and storage of memories, including trauma-related memories. Trauma-related memories can be very vivid and intrusive, and they can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. The RTPJ/LTPJ is thought to play a role in regulating the intensity of trauma-related memories and in helping us to integrate them into our overall life narrative.
  • Understanding the emotions of others: The RTPJ/LTPJ is also involved in helping us to understand the emotions of others. This is important for trauma survivors, as they often have difficulty trusting others and understanding their own emotions. The RTPJ/LTPJ can help trauma survivors to develop empathy for others and to build meaningful relationships.
  • Coping with the psychological effects of trauma: The RTPJ/LTPJ is also involved in helping us to cope with the psychological effects of trauma. Trauma can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The RTPJ/LTPJ can help us to regulate our emotions, to manage stress, and to develop coping mechanisms.

An additional function may be that the temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) may inhibit acceptance of the fact that a crime happened when it had previously helped the scam victim to believe in the scam story, creating a conflict inside the mind of the victim – that appears to be denial.

In addition to the above, the RTPJ/LTPJ is also involved in the following psychological processes, which are relevant to trauma:

  • Theory of mind: Theory of mind is the ability to understand the mental states of others, including their thoughts, beliefs, and intentions. The RTPJ/LTPJ is thought to play a key role in the theory of mind. Trauma survivors often have difficulty with the theory of mind, which can make it difficult for them to understand the intentions of others and to form meaningful relationships.
  • Mentalizing: Mentalizing is the process of thinking about our own mental states and the mental states of others. The RTPJ/LTPJ is thought to play a role in mentalizing. Trauma survivors often have difficulty with mentalizing, which can make it difficult for them to understand their own emotions and the emotions of others.
  • Self-awareness: Self-awareness is the ability to understand and reflect on our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The RTPJ/LTPJ is thought to play a role in self-awareness. Trauma survivors often have difficulty with self-awareness, which can make it difficult for them to understand their own reactions to trauma and to develop coping mechanisms.

Changes to the Temporoparietal Junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) following Psychological Trauma

The temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) is a brain region that is involved in a variety of cognitive functions, including social cognition, empathy, and narrative processing. It is also thought to play a role in the processing of psychological trauma.

Studies have shown that there are a number of changes in the RTPJ/LTPJ following significant psychological trauma. These changes can include:

  • Reduced activity: Studies have shown that people with PTSD have reduced activity in the RTPJ/LTPJ when viewing images of people with emotional expressions. This suggests that people with PTSD may have difficulty understanding and responding to the emotions of others.
  • Increased activity: Other studies have shown that people with PTSD have increased activity in the RTPJ/LTPJ when viewing images of people with fearful expressions. This suggests that people with PTSD may be hyperaware of the fear of others, which could lead to hypervigilance and anxiety.
  • Altered connectivity: Studies have also shown that the RTPJ/LTPJ is less well-connected to other brain regions in people with PTSD. This suggests that the RTPJ/LTPJ may not be functioning as effectively as it should in people with PTSD.

The changes in the RTPJ/LTPJ following significant psychological trauma are thought to contribute to a number of the symptoms of PTSD, such as difficulty understanding and responding to the emotions of others, hypervigilance, and anxiety.

It is important to note that the changes in the RTPJ/LTPJ following significant psychological trauma are reversible. With treatment, such as therapy and medication, people with PTSD can experience changes in their RTPJ/LTPJ that are associated with a reduction in symptoms.

There are no specific medications that we are aware of that have been developed to work on the temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) to help restore it to normal function. However, there are a number of medications that are used to treat the symptoms of PTSD, which is a condition that is thought to involve impaired function of the RTPJ/LTPJ. If you want to explore that please consult with a mental health professional.

How to Protect Yourself from Believing False Stories

Here are some thought, mind, & behavioral exercises or actions that can help to counter how the right and left temporoparietal junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) would tend to cause a scam victim to believe false stories:

  • Take a step back and reflect on the situation. When you are feeling pressured, rushed, or emotional, it can be difficult to think clearly. Take time to calm down and think about the situation rationally. Let your emotions level out.
  • Ask yourself if the story makes sense. Scammers often tell stories that are too good to be true or that have obvious plot holes. If the story doesn’t make sense, it’s probably a scam. Tell the story to a trusted friend or family member. Often the retelling of a story or plot line will help you identify falsehoods and issues.
  • Do your research. If you are unsure about something, look it up online or talk to a trusted friend or family member. Scammers often lie about their identities or about situations. Test their local knowledge as a way of tripping them up.
  • Be skeptical of emotional appeals. Scammers often try to manipulate their victims by appealing to their emotions, such as their sense of pity or greed. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. They will even bring in imaginary family members or children to manipulate you.
  • Trust your intuition. If you have a bad feeling about something, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and walk away. Often with the amygdala in control, the logical part of your brain can only give you a whisper of caution.

Remember

Remember, these crimes work because of our brains. If you were scammed it was only because you are human and have a brain – even dogs and cats can be scammed! You are not to blame – it was not your fault that your own brain worked against you!

A Temporoparietal Junction (RTPJ/LTPJ) Theory Of Relationship Scams

Please Note

These are complex concepts and we present this theory and information to help educate scam victims and professionals about the complexities of the mind and the impacts of relationship scams and other types of fraud. Additional research and study are needed to better understand these brain functions and processes so that it may lead to better approaches to therapy, as well as support and recovery mechanisms.

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at www.ScamPsychology.org

SCARS Resources:

Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.

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