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Squeaky-clean, upstanding moralists may be so honest that it can work against them. And sometimes it can even lead to their corruption and downfall. Super-honest people, and their self-willed thoughts, may be so staunchly lie-free that they never allow themselves to even think about doing something dishonest, such as cheat on their diet or tell a white lie. And that, says new studies, makes them ill-prepared in the eye of temptation.

According to studies in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, thinking about dishonesty may be what prevents people from making dishonest moves. Seems considering telling your boss that you’re sick (when you’re not) or, say, contemplating getting rogered by the barista who makes your soy latte (when you’re married), could lead to ethical decisions.

scandal lie

In the three experiments performed, researchers found that those who were given the chance to reflect on past transgressions were more likely not to repeat their past mistakes. One possible explanation is that rehashing the past dishonest deed creates a sense of guilt in the person reflecting, which could lead to future actions to be taken more wisely and thoughtfully.

So, good, decent and honest people can wind up making dishonest moves, such as lying and cheating, when they fail to anticipate the temptations that can crop up on their path, and therefore are defenseless when these temptations strike.

The findings suggest that in order to stay on the straight and narrow and be the upstanding person you want to be, you should reflect on times you have not lived up to being that person, how that made you feel and focus on how to be instead the person you good and honest truly are meant to be, the one who leaves no lingering trail of guilt behind.

The researchers concluded that when people anticipated the trouble spots of temptation that exist for them (and everyone knows they’re out there) and could strike at any time, they were more likely not to follow through their known temptation. Turns out that when there is advance warning, and anticipation, this anticipation of temptations can allow people to prepare a plan on how to overcome and counteract the that temptation.

To put it simply, forewarned is forearmed. Even if the warning is all about you.

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