Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Cheaters who confessed just part of their wrongdoing were also judged more harshly by others than cheaters who didn’t confess at all, according to five experiments involving 4,167 people from all over the United States.
The research is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
“Confessing to only part of one’s transgressions is attractive to a lot of people because they expect the confession to be more believable and guilt-relieving than not confessing,” said lead author Eyal Pe’er, Ph.D.
But our findings show just the opposite is true.”
Confessing to some bad behaviour was more common than making a full confession among those who cheated as much as possible in the study.
But only telling part of the truth, as opposed to not confessing at all, was more likely to lead to increased feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety, the research found.
In other words, it’s best to commit to an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to confessing, said Peter, who conducted the research with Alessandro Acquisti, Ph.D., of Carnegie Mellon University, and Shaul Shalvi, Ph.D., from Ben-Gurion University in Israel.
So many times I’ve seen the following scenario:
Husband or wife gets caught engaging in infidelity, trapped in online erotica or even feeding some dark rage with pornography and then tells a bit of the truth.
The spouse is, predictably, devastated, but then starts to risk trusting.
Then, the next part of the story comes out and the spouse again is devastated but, though it takes longer, starts to risk trusting again.
And again, and again — and then the spouse is no longer willing to risk trusting anything, furiously angry and out for revenge.
By the time the full story comes out, the husband or wife is finally feeling better and starting to seriously look at the possibility of really doing some serious addressing and healing of the problem — and the marriage is over.
The sad part is, usually his or her spouse started with a complete willingness to forgive…
The overpowering weight of shame is usually so great that few listen but, for those who do, the truth really does set people free.