81 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2017 Last revised: 5 Aug 2018
Date Written: March 22, 2017
Many lies that are intended to help others require the deceiver to make assumptions about whether lying serves others’ best interests. In other words, lying often involves a paternalistic motive. Across seven studies (N = 2,260), we show that although targets appreciate lies that yield unequivocal benefits relative to honesty, they penalize paternalistic lies. We identify three mechanisms behind the harmful effects of paternalistic lies, finding that targets believe that paternalistic liars (a) do not have benevolent intentions, (b) are violating their autonomy by lying, and (c) are inaccurately predicting their preferences. Importantly, targets’ aversion towards paternalistic lies persists even when targets receive their preferred outcome as a result of a lie. Additionally, deceivers can mitigate some, but not all, of the harmful effects of paternalistic lies by directly communicating their good intentions. These results contribute to our understanding of deception and paternalistic policies.
Keywords: Deception, Paternalism, Prosocial Lies, Moral Judgments
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