9 Psychological Reasons Why Good People Sometimes do Bad Things ...


It's surely happened to you to find out about a perfectly nice person's wrong, immoral or even criminal behavior and feel blown away by the news, wondering how this is possible and why good people do bad things. Actually, I'm pretty confident every single one of us has something in our past - or even present - that we are not proud of. While some actions cannot be excusable, we still shouldn't be too quick to judge others (or yourself). Check out just some of the reasons why good people do bad things according to psychology.

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Self Image

Dr. Muel Kaptein (Rotterdam School of Management) states self image is one of the most important reasons why good people do bad things. If you see yourself as powerless, determined by your environment or having your choices made for you, you will be more likely to engage in unethical behavior, as you feel less responsible for your actions. Those with more confidence and a strong sense of themselves, on the other hand, are less likely to bend the rules.


How Others See You

If others view you suspiciously and constantly treat you like you are a bad person, you are more likely to engage in immoral or illegal behavior, even though, initially you had absolutely no inclination towards such actions. This gets you thinking about society today, doesn't it?


The Trap of Euphemisms

Euphemisms and nicknames have the power to free unethical practices of their negative or immoral connotations. According to Kaptein, when fraud is called "financial engineering" or bribing becomes "greasing the wheels", questionable actions suddenly become more acceptable.


Sleep Deprivation

Numerous studies have shown how lack of sleep can affect our life and behavior. But did you know it also makes us more prone to unethical practices? This is what Chris Barnes of the Pamplin College of Business has recently discovered through his research.


Sleep deprivation is a growing problem in our society, and it can have a serious impact on our mental and physical health. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and even obesity. It can also make us more prone to making bad decisions and engaging in unethical practices.

Chris Barnes of the Pamplin College of Business recently conducted a study on the effects of sleep deprivation on decision-making. His research showed that people who are sleep-deprived are more likely to be dishonest and engage in unethical behavior. This is because lack of sleep impairs our ability to make rational decisions and can lead to impulsive behavior.

Sleep deprivation can also affect our memory and cognitive performance. Studies have shown that people who are sleep-deprived are more likely to forget details and make mistakes. This can lead to poor decision-making and can make people more likely to take risks they would not normally take.

Sleep deprivation can also affect our mood and emotional state. People who are not getting enough sleep are more likely to be irritable, anxious, and depressed. This can lead to poor judgment and can make people more likely to engage in unethical behavior.


We do Bad Things Because We Care

When we hear about unethical behavior at the workplace, such as fraud, we assume that the reason behind it is money. Well, Lamar Pierce of Washington University says it's not really so - not always. It can happen simply because we want to help others. And when we feel we're helping someone, we don't see our actions as unethical or harmful towards others. During his research, Pierce found that 20-50% of cars that should fail the emissions test are illicitly passed. And this was not necessarily due to bribery, but because the inspectors felt empathy towards the owners.


Time Pressure

In a study conducted by Princeton University, a group of theology students were told to preach the Good Samaritan story in a building and then report to another building, on the way to which they would encounter a "victim" that needed help. When there was no time limit to get to the other building, all subjects helped the distressed man. When they were told to arrive ASAP, 90% of the students ignored the "victim". How about that?


The Reactance Theory

Most rules are meant to prevent immoral actions, but they can backfire. When you consider a rule excessive or unjust or feel that it limits your freedom (even if you're wrong), you are much more likely to bend it and engage in bad behavior.


Punishments Backfire Too

Similarly, attaching punishments, such as fines, to unethical practices can lead to the opposite effect than the one intended. Once you cast something in those terms, it becomes an entirely different concept, losing its moral connotation. It's not about a certain behavior being right or wrong anymore; it rather becomes just a calculation regarding the potential punishment versus the likelihood of getting caught.


Obedience to Authority

One of the most common reasons why good people do bad things, obedience to authority, is engraved in our culture. When a person in a position of authority tells us to do something unethical, we may see ourselves as just an instrument of someone else's wishes, which minimizes our responsibility and makes bad behavior justifiable.

We are all prone to mistakes, but that doesn't necessarily make us evil. Just human. There can be many other psychological reasons why nice people may sometimes do bad things. Do you have any specific ones in mind?


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im more of no.7 so people wont really understand why i do such things 😂

Very interesting article! Thank you.

Nice! Just had my heart broken, and I was really good about the whole thing then later came the retaliation! which was so out of character for me and people that I know. Looking at this shed light in a few ways as I was stressed from both uni and work as well sleep deprived and a lot of things on your list!

This is very current given recent circumstances nationwide. I love allwomenstalk! Huge fan.

Yeah . It's a bad of mine , the Queen B , and I regret my life . I feel terrible now , but i I'll just let it be . Cuz am just that way .

Well,in UK it's now a case of the Good Samaritan twisted to favour the criminal! It's the criminal. We are all expected to feel pity for and we are told he needs the help etc.The victim is often made to feel it maybe their fault the crime happened.

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