Cheaters likely to feel upbeat, not guilty
People who cheat are more likely to feel upbeat than remorseful following their infidelity, according to new research.
Previous research has shown that people feel guilty after doing something wrong specifically to harm someone else.
The new study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that doing something unethical that doesn’t directly harm someone else might lead to positive emotions.
Researchers, from the University of Washington, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and London Business School, examined the effects of dishonest behavior on emotions in more than 1,000 participants, who were in their 20s and 30s.
Participants were divided into two groups for the experiment, and both groups were administered a computer-based math and logic test. One group had to work out their answers by hand. The other group was asked to also work out their own answers, but they also had an option to cheat and click on a button that would give them the correct answer. Both groups filled out questionnaires regarding their emotions before and after the test.
Results showed that almost 7 out of 10 participants cheated by using the answer button. Participants who cheated also expressed feelings of happiness rather than remorse.
One reason why people cheat, even when the payoff is small, might be due to the good feeling—or “cheater’s high”—that comes after the unethical behavior, researchers said.
Researchers said these findings show that it’s important to understand how our moral behavior and ethical choices can influence our emotions. Further research is needed to show whether “cheater’s high” can cause people to repeat their unethical behavior, they said.