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Time Pressure Makes People More Likely to Respond with Desirable Answer Instead of Honest One: Study

People may default to their desire to appear virtuous, even if it means misrepresenting themselves.

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Updated:October 12, 2019, 3:19 PM IST
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Time Pressure Makes People More Likely to Respond with Desirable Answer Instead of Honest One: Study
People may default to their desire to appear virtuous, even if it means misrepresenting themselves.

Psychologists often come up with researches that might amaze you in so many ways.

One of these researches was recently published in Psychological Science, which concludes when people are asked to answer questions quickly and impulsively, they tend to respond with a socially desirable and favourable answer, rather than an honest one. The study was done by John Protzko, a University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) cognitive scientist, along with his colleague Claire Zedelius.

Protzko explained, “The method of ‘answer quickly and without thinking’, a long staple in psychological research, may be doing many things, but one thing it does is make people lie to you and tell you what they think you want to hear. This may mean we have to revisit the interpretation of a lot of research findings that use the ‘answer quickly’ technique.”

Explaining it further, he added, “The idea has always been that we have a divided mind — an intuitive, animalistic type and a more rational type. And the more rational type is assumed to always be constraining the lower order mind. If you ask people to answer quickly and without thinking, it’s supposed to give you sort of a secret access to that lower order mind.”

To conduct the study, Protzko, Zedelius, and another UCSB colleague Jonathan Schooler devised a test of 10 simple yes-or-no questions.

The answers of the respondents were noticed when they were given fewer than 11 seconds, and then, more than 11 seconds to answer each question. It was found that the fast-answering questions were often supported by responses that the listener wants to hear.

It was concluded that time pressure does not bring out a person’s good “true self.”

Therefore, people may default to their desire to appear virtuous, even if it means misrepresenting themselves, Protzko concluded.

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