Living Inauthentically Causes Us to Feel Morally Tainted

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image via Shutterstock. Used with permission.

According to a report published by PsychCentral.  A new study suggest that the human drive for authenticity — being true to ourselves and living in accordance with our values — is so fundamental that we feel immoral or impure when we hide our true colors.

This sense of impurity then leads us to engage in cleansing or charitable behaviors as a way of clearing our conscience, according to researchers.

“Our work shows that feeling inauthentic is not a fleeting or cursory phenomenon, it cuts to the very essence of what it means to be a moral person,” said psychological scientist Maryam Kouchaki, Ph.D., of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Participants who wrote about a time they felt inauthentic in one online experiment reported feeling more out of touch with their true selves and more impure, dirty, or tainted than participants who wrote about a time when they felt authentic.  They also reported lower moral self-regard, rating themselves as less generous and cooperative, for example, than the authentic participants, the researchers reported.

To ease our conscience, we may be tempted to wash these feelings of moral impurity away.

The researchers found that participants who wrote about inauthenticity were more likely to fill in missing letters to spell out cleansing-related words — for example, completing w _ _ h as “wash” instead of “wish” —  than those who wrote about authenticity.  

The inauthentic participants also reported a greater desire to use cleansing-related products and engage in cleansing behaviors than the authentic participants, according to the study’s findings.  The study also found that performing good deeds may be another cleansing strategy.  READ MORE

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