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Cognitive control and dishonesty

Publication year 2022
Published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Authors Sebastian Speer, Ale Smidts, Maarten A S Boksem,

Dishonesty is ubiquitous and imposes substantial financial and social burdens on society. Intuitively, dishonesty results from a failure of willpower to control selfish behavior. However, recent research suggests that the role of cognitive control in dishonesty is more complex. We review evidence that cognitive control is not needed to be honest or dishonest per se, but that it depends on individual differences in what we call one’s ‘moral default’: for those who are prone to dishonesty, cognitive control indeed aids in being honest, but for those who are already generally honest, cognitive control may help them cheat to occasionally profit from small acts of dishonesty. Thus, the role of cognitive control in (dis)honesty is to override the moral default.

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