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When Self-Serving Deception Is More Ethical Than Honesty

Detected deception in negotiations can irreversibly alter negotiation outcomes, relational outcomes, and interpersonal perceptions. A broad and important class of deception that has received surprisingly little attention is emotional deception, which we define as the misrepresentation of emotions. In our work, we first introduce a typology of emotional deception. Second, we develop a framework of deception, the Deception Perception Model, to explain how deception influences interpersonal perceptions. Third, we empirically test our model by examining self-serving emotional deception. We find that the contextual norms, the perceived intentionality, and the relative consequences of deception significantly influences perceptions of ethicality. Finally, we demonstrate that, surprisingly, emotional deception can sometimes be viewed as more ethical than honesty—even if the reason for deception is self-serving. We also show that, not all emotional deception is the same; in general, Down-display of emotions are viewed as more ethical than Up-displays or Fabrication.

Polly Kang
National University of Singapore

Maurice Schweitzer
Wharton School
United States


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