Human Faculty of Recognizing Emotions Connected to Lying?

Research suggests “white lie” may affect an individuals ability to recognize emotions.

Study examines “unintended consequences of dishonest behavior” or in simpler terms, the phenomenon of having difficulty believing what others say after ones own lie. Based on recent study, even a minor lie or a white lie can hinder us in our ability to read the emotions of other people.

Based on the study, whether it is suffering or joy, empathy helps people feel what the other person feels, including our reason for choosing to do good deeds – it is empathy that helps us differentiate. According to Dr. Ashley E. Hardin, professor of organisational behavior, there exists a connection between unethical acts and one’s empathetic accuracy in the sense that they “harm interpersonal relationships through… individuals’ ability to detect others’ emotions”. Hardin and her team reportedly carried out eight studies with more than 2,500 participants in various scenarios, concluding that there is a “causal relationship”. That is, lying makes people less able to study other peoples emotions accurately.

Moreover, the research team inferred that people who are dishonest more often are less likely to define themselves “in terms of close relationships” with their friends and family. They further concluded that “impaired empathetic accuracy” has lasting negative consequences that can seep into future interactions with people leading to dehumanization and other immoral acts. As Hardin explains it as a vicious cycle adding that, telling a white lie once in a while may not seem like a big deal, “but a decision to be dishonest in one moment will have implications for how you interact with people subsequently”.

While there has always been a debate as to the connection between empathy and moral value, the new study suggests equating empathy with morality is a mistake. Through their study, they have concluded that there is a clear boundary between the two. As Hardin writes, “one’s empathetic accuracy can be affected by the specific psychological state produced by one’s dishonest behavior”. 


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