Why does cheating induce feel-good vibes?

Ponder over this! If your lies hurt no one, why does it induce feel-good vibes? Apparently, a little dishonesty with no explicit harm can trigger a “cheater’s high!”

According to an intriguing new study, as long as there is no backlash or hurt involved, people who’ve been deceitful or conned others and got away with it actually feel cheerful rather than rueful.

The study found instead of experiencing a sense of repentance, cheaters who pulled off a devious act on others got a buzz from the achievement.

Participants were presented with chances to cheat on supposed intelligence tests, in some cases offered cash rewards for being dishonest in the study. It was noted that several volunteers accepted the bait and felt upbeat about the misdeed as opposed to those who played fair.

Lead author of the study, Nicole Ruedy, of the University of Washington stated, “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 behaviour.

“Our study reveals people actually may experience a “cheater’s high” after doing something unethical that doesn’t directly harm someone else.”

Series of experiments conducted
In a bid to get some insight into why people get a natural high on getting away with cheating, the researchers conducted a number of experiments.

The study involved more than 1,000 people in the U.S. and England. Over half the subjects were men, with 400 in their late 20s or early 30s and the remaining in their 20s were college students.

In the first experiment subjects were asked to take tests on the computer. One group got the chance to browse through the correct answer but was told to disregard the option. A second group had no access to the answers. It was noted that 68 percent who could look at the answers cheated and felt happier about it.

In another experiment, participants were promised monetary reward for solving math and logic problems within a time frame and told that another ‘participant’ would grade the test. An actor inflated the participant’s score in one group but graded the second one accurately. Subjects exposed to cheating felt upbeat afterwards.

Volunteers were asked not to cheat in order to keep their responses reliable in the third trial, but experts stressed on the importance of accuracy in the test results. The study found cheaters felt higher levels of satisfaction.

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

The study was published by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.