Research across disciplines suggests that bad is stronger than good and that individuals punish deception more than they reward honesty. However, methodological issues in previous research limit the latter conclusion. Three experiments resolved these issues and consistently found the opposite pattern: Individuals rewarded honesty more frequently and intensely than they punished deception. Experiment 2 extended these counterintuitive findings by revealing a divergence between evaluation and behavior: Evaluative reactions to deception were stronger than those to honesty, but behavioral intentions in response to honesty were stronger than those in response to deception. In addition, individuals wanted to avoid deceivers more than they wanted to approach honest actors. Experiment 3 found that punishment, but not reward, frequencies were sensitive to costs. Moderated-mediation tests revealed the role of different psychological mechanisms: Negative affect drove punishments, whereas perceived trustworthiness drove rewards. Overall, bad appears to be stronger than good in influencing psychological reactions, but good seems to be stronger than bad in influencing behavior.

C.S. Wang, Adam Galinsky, and J. Murnighan
Journal Article
Publication Date
Psychological Science

Full Citation

Wang, C.S., Adam Galinsky, and J. Murnighan
. “Bad drives psychological reactions but good propels behavior: Responses to honesty and deception.”
Psychological Science
, (January 01, 2009):