How dishonest behavior reduces individuals’ ability to read others’ emotions

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In this research, researchers examine the unintended consequences of dishonest behavior for one’s interpersonal abilities and subsequent ethical behavior. Specifically, they explore how dishonest conduct can reduce one’s generalized empathic accuracy— which is the ability to accurately read other people’s emotional states. In the process, they distinguish these 2 constructs (dishonest conduct and empathic accuracy) from one another and demonstrate a causal relationship. The effects of dishonesty on empathic accuracy that they found were significant, but modest in size. Across 8 studies (n = 2,588), they found support for

(a) a correlational and causal account of dishonest behavior reducing empathic accuracy;

(b) an underlying mechanism of reduced relational self-construal (i.e., the tendency to define the self in terms of close relationships);

(c) negative downstream consequences of impaired empathic accuracy, in terms of dehumanization and subsequent dishonesty; and

(d) a physiological trait (i.e., vagal reactivity) that serves as a boundary condition for the relationship between dishonest behavior and empathic accuracy.


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