Recently, Ladders covered an in-depth study on the mechanisms that animate lying. Optimistically, the researchers that co-authored the report determined that if a lie bears the potential to get an otherwise neurologically sound adult out of a jam, without jeopardizing the well being of others, this hypothetical otherwise neurologically sound adult will be intrinsically motivated to spurn the truth. Deceit might be the most complex engine of self-interest in this way, given its masters aren’t as a rule spirited by cruelty. The same tool that veils a murder’s transgressions and prolongs adultery, keeps you from an uncomfortable interaction with every bad haircut/oatmeal cookie you’ve ever encountered. Sometimes convenience urges us to act in ways we’re not always proud of, especially when time is of the essence.
A new study published in The Journal Psychological Science, takes this conceit a step further, finding that when people are tasked with inquiries that might reveal something unfavorable about themselves and when they’re pressed for time they will more likely submit a socially agreeable answer as opposed to an honest one. Conversely, if given time to think, participants seemed to be able to rationalize their shortcomings as human flaws-making them less ashamed of them in addition to being more comfortable divulging them.
The study was conducted by cognitive scientists Jonathan Schooler, John Protzko and Claire Zedelius from The University of California, Santa Barbara.
“The method of ‘answer quickly and without thinking’, a long staple in psychological research, may be doing many things, but one thing it does is make people lie to you and tell you what they think you want to hear,” Protzko explained in a press statement. “This may mean we have to revisit the interpretation of a lot of research findings that use the ‘answer quickly’ technique.”
The new study highlights the nature of our divided conscious. Excluding instances of psychosis, humans uniquely possess the physiological capability to form rational well-reasoned conclusions based on empirical evidence, but we also rely on our carnal intuition when our backs are against a wall. The pressure activates what the researchers referred to as the “lower mind.”
“The idea has always been that we have a divided mind — an intuitive, animalistic type and a more rational type,” he continued. “And the more rational type is assumed to always be constraining the lower order mind. If you ask people to answer quickly and without thinking, it’s supposed to give you sort of secret access to that lower-order mind, Protzko continued.
He and his colleagues tested this hypothesis with a study group and a 10 point yes or no questionnaire. Each question was composed of an obvious socially acceptable answer and an unfavorable but ultimately human response. The control group was allowed to take more than 11 seconds to answer while the other group had to respond in less than this time. Routinely, the respondents that were pressed for time opted for the socially acceptable response. Looking at some of the examples featured in the report like:“I sometimes feel resentful when I don’t get my way,” and “No matter who I’m talking to, I’m always a good listener,” you’re hopefully immediately suspicious of anyone that claims to be a good listener despite the context? Similarly, resentment is like a reflex. It takes character not to let your resentment inform how you treat others, but it merely feeling it says nothing profound about you in any direction-surely any rational mind would agree.
The full study, titled, Rushing to Appear Virtuous: Time Pressure Increases Socially Desirable Responding can be observed in the journal Psychological Science, a link to which is provided above.