From Disgust to Deceit
New research, published in Organisational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, suggest feelings of disgust lead to increases in deceitful behavior that would benefit the self.
In their first experiment, researchers had participants rate consumer products that are known to elicit a disgust response – such as diapers and diarrhea medicine – or neutral consumer products – such as vitamins and pens. They were then tasked to flip a coin. If it landed on heads, the participants could earn $2. If it landed on tails, there was no promise of money. Some participants were told the reverse. The coin flip was committed alone and participants were later asked to report the result. This presented a dilemma of sorts: the participants could lie, get the US$2 and never be found out.
So what happened when participants were left alone to flip the coin? 63% of the disgusted and 52% of the control participants reported a favorable coin flip. Remembering that odds are 50% for a favorable outcome, researchers concluded it’s clear that the disgusted participants were engaging in higher levels of deception.
In a second experiment, participants were asked to describe either their most disgusting experience or a typical uneventful evening. Those who described their most disgusting experience were nearly twice as likely as the others to lie about solving anagrams in order to obtain more credit for completing a survey. How did the researchers know participants were lying? One of the anagrams was impossible to solve.
The researchers also ran two other experiments to test their theory with the same result: those who felt disgust were more likely to participate in deceitful behavior.