Does being more competent mean people lie to you more?

The temptation compares to a moral dilemma: it involves a disagreement between the lure to obtain some advantage and also the desire to conform to personal and societal moral norms or avoid social outcomes that are aversive. Consequently, people might feel different rates of moral and emotional struggle determined by the goal of the deception. Here we investigated, in a setting that was important, how social judgments based on two fundamental dimensions of human social cognition – ‘warmth’ and ‘competence’ – impact on the determination to deceive others. Results revealed independent effects for competence and warmth. Specifically, while folks are inclined to deceive for self-gain those individuals they perceive as warm, they also tend to lie more to exceptionally competent others. Collectively, our results show that private ethical standards that inhibit involvement in deceptive behavior and the emotional prices are not stable but fairly malleable in line with the consequences of the deceit and the goal.

The original research article is available via NIH.

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