Cheating isn’t exactly the sort of behaviour that’s supposed to make you feel better, but sometimes it does anyway. The British Psychological Society Research Digest explains why we get that little high from cheating.
People assume that behaving unethically will make them feel bad, but it turns out we actually get a little buzz from it. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology calls this the “cheaters high”. BPS explains what’s going on:
In one study, 179 students at a US university had the chance to earn cash rewards for solving anagrams. 40-one per cent of them cheated by adding in solutions after they’d seen the answers. And after the test, these cheaters experienced a larger boost in positive emotions compared with the honest students…
Yet another study sought to uncover the reason why people get a kick from cheating. This time 205 people were recruited online (via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk survey website) and had the chance to solve anagrams for cash. Some of the participants received a message that said “we realise we can’t check your answers … we hope you reported your answers honestly”. Its purpose was to undermine any attempts cheaters may make to tell themselves they hadn’t really broken the rules. In fact, those who lied about their score and received this message reported more self-satisfaction than those who cheated but didn’t get the message. Ruedy and her colleagues said this suggests the buzz of cheating comes not from self-deception (the warning message would have undermined this), but rather from the thrill of getting away with it.
Both studies have pretty low stakes (participates weren’t cheating and harming puppies at the same time), but it’s still a pretty interesting set of studies.
The cheater’s high – how being bad feels good [BPS Research Digest]
This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Knowing evil means knowing how to beat it, so you can use your sinister powers for good. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.