Cheaters Get A 'Cheater's High,' But Only When No One Gets Hurt

It's probably exactly what we (I) thought.  Andrew Weiner was only sorry when he was caught.  According to a new study, cheaters get a real high from deceiving others, except when they're caught.

"People who get away with cheating when they believe no one is hurt by their dishonesty are more likely to feel upbeat than remorseful afterward, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association," newswise.com reports.

Wait.  His wife was hurt, and most likely, when he's older, his child. So he doesn't count.  Anywhere.

But most people who cheat don't want to hurt anyone, or so, research says.  They just want to get away with something.  And who doesn't know that feeling?

Or, as the Web site puts it, "Behaving unethically may lead to feeling better than being guilt-free."  Although most people predict they will feel bad after cheating or being dishonest, many of them don’t, reports the study published online.

"When people do something wrong specifically to harm someone else, such as apply an electrical shock, the consistent reaction in previous research has been that they feel bad about their behavior," newswise.com quotes the study’s lead author, Nicole E. Ruedy, of the University of Washington. "Our study reveals people actually may experience a ‘cheater’s high’ after doing something unethical that doesn’t directly harm someone else."

Even when there was no tangible reward, people who cheated felt better on average than those who didn’t cheat, according to results of several experiments that involved more than 1,000 people in the U.S. and England, newswise.com notes.  Does it help to point out that more than half the study participants were men?

Most people believe -- and that's what probably stops us from cheating -- that if we cheat on a test, or on the numbers of hours we actually worked, we'll feel really bad. But research found that's just not the case.  When cheaters cheated, they felt an immediate surge of euphoria.

Funny, or sad, depending on how you look at it, "In one experiment, participants who cheated on math and logic problems were overall happier afterward than those who didn’t and those who had no opportunity to cheat."

Even more interesting, people who gained from another person’s misdeeds felt better on average than those who didn’t, another experiment found.

And the cheating goes on. According to newswise.com, "In another trial, researchers asked the participants not to cheat because it would make their responses unreliable, yet those who cheated were more likely to feel more satisfied afterward than those who didn’t. Moreover, the cheaters who were reminded at the end of the test how important it was not to cheat reported feeling even better on average than other cheaters who were not given this message, the authors said."

So what are we to make of all this cheating?  Does everyone cheat? 

"The good feeling some people get when they cheat may be one reason people are unethical even when the payoff is small," Ruedy told newswise.com. "It’s important that we understand how our moral behavior influences our emotions. Future research should examine whether this ‘cheater’s high’ could motivate people to repeat the unethical behavior."
 


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