You Can Handle the Truth: Mispredicting the Intrapersonal Consequences of Honesty and Kindness

102 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2017  

Emma Edelman Levine

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Taya R. Cohen

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Date Written: February 1, 2017

Abstract

Many of our most difficult conversations involve navigating the tension between honesty and kindness. In the present research, we explore the intrapersonal consequences of communicating honestly and kindly by randomly assigning individuals to be honest, kind, or conscious of their communication (the control condition) in every conversation with every person in their life for three days. We examine the impact of our interventions on predicted and actual well-being and social connection and we document two main results. First, individuals predict that being honest will lead to lower levels of hedonic well-being (i.e., enjoyment) and social connection than being kind or conscious of one’s communication, causing individuals to avoid communicating honestly. Second, this prediction is incorrect: the experience of being honest is far more pleasurable, leads to greater levels of social connection, and does less relational harm than individuals expect. We establish these effects across two field experiments and two prediction experiments and we document the robustness of our results in a subsequent laboratory experiment. We explore the underlying mechanisms by qualitatively coding participants’ reflections during and following our experiments. This research contributes to our understanding of affective forecasting processes and uncovers fundamental insights on how communication and moral values shape well-being.

Keywords: honesty, affective forecasting, ethics, communication

Suggested Citation

Levine, Emma Edelman and Cohen, Taya R., You Can Handle the Truth: Mispredicting the Intrapersonal Consequences of Honesty and Kindness (February 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2910067

Emma Edelman Levine (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Taya R. Cohen

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
4122686677 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.tepper.cmu.edu/our-faculty-and-research/about-our-faculty/faculty-profiles/tcohen/cohen-t

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