“Bad acts spark a ‘cheater’s high’ “

People who act unethically without harming an obvious victim — think plagiarizing on a term paper or stealing office supplies at work — get a buzz immediately after their transgressions, a new study suggests.

The existence of this “cheater’s high” challenges influential theories holding that any wrongdoing triggers guilt, shame or remorse, say psychologist Nicole Ruedy of the University of Washington in Seattle and her colleagues. Although people expect to feel guilty after breaching ethics, cheaters temporarily bask in the glow of having gotten away with forbidden acts, the researchers propose September 2 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

That won’t surprise shoplifters, joy riders and con artists who make no secret of savoring their swindles. But scientists have largely ignored the emotional upside of unethical behavior. Immediate emotional payoffs may reinforce certain types of offenses, Ruedy says.

via Science News.