man confessing man confessing A little lie might be worse than a big one. (Photo: studiostoks / Shutterstock)

Go ahead and tell the whole truth, you'll feel better

Researchers find that partially admitting the truth doesn't erase guilty feelings, and people won't believe you anyway.

If you ate all of your roommate's homemade banana chocolate chip muffins in the fiery heat of caloric passion, you might be tempted to admit you only ate one. But you'd be better off either admitting nothing, or everything, because partial admissions make people feel really, really bad.

Eyal Pe’er, a researcher at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, conducted a study about honesty with scientists from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. “Confessing to only part of one’s transgressions is attractive to a lot of people because they expect the confession to be more believable and guilt-relieving than not confessing. But our findings show just the opposite is true.”

The proof? Studies, of course.

albert einsteinEinstein apparently knew the perils of fudging the truth decades before the research came out. That's pretty much why he was famous. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

In one study, participants played a virtual coin tossing game. Scientists asked them to predict coin toss results, and to report how many times they were actually correct. About a third of the participants cheated by adding correct guesses.

In a similar coin tossing experiment, researchers asked participants to report their feelings before and after they confessed to cheating on their coin toss results. Those who only partially confessed (saying they added only one or two correct guesses, when they really added more) said they felt more guilty, scared and ashamed than those who completely confessed.

In a third experiment, scientists had people describe a time they'd either fully or partially confessed to bad behavior. Participants talked about things like infidelity, cheating on tests and using drugs. The takeaway? Full confessors felt more relieved after they told the truth, while partial confessors (who only owned up to some of their bad actions) felt more guilty and regretful.

holding handsThis guy should NOT tell his girlfriend he only held a few fingers of that cute blonde's hand. (Photo: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

“People seeking redemption by partially admitting their big lies feel guiltier because they do not take complete responsibility for their behaviors,” Pe’er said. “True guilt relief may require people to fully come clean.”

So actually, your roommate probably won't believe you didn't eat any muffins. Just admit you ate them all, and bake more.


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