Hiding your true self may make you feel immoral

Researchers say this inauthenticity is not just about putting up a fake persona, but it could eventually lead to you feeling immoral


Mumbai: How many of you have a work personality that is different from your real self? Be it laughing at the bad jokes of your boss or agreeing to ideas you fundamentally disagree with just because the majority at work feel that way.

Researchers say this inauthenticity is not just about putting up a fake persona, but it could eventually lead to you feeling immoral.

Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, Maryam Kouchaki of Kellogg School of Management and Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia Business School conducted a series of experiments and found that inauthenticity, compared with authenticity, consistently led participants to feel immoral and impure.

A commitment to one’s identity and values is important for effective self-regulation. When this commitment is violated, people feel inauthentic, say the authors.

While being untrue to oneself does not constitute immoral behaviour, the authors argue people experience inauthenticity as immoral, and it taints their moral self-concept.

“Philosophers and psychologists alike have treated being untrue to oneself (inauthenticity) differently from being untrue to others (dishonesty), and have suggested that society tolerates or promotes inauthenticity but universally prohibits dishonesty. We, however, suggest that inauthenticity and dishonesty share a similar root: They are both a violation of being true, whether to others or oneself. As a result, they elicit similar psychological and behavioural responses,” said the authors.

They tested their predictions in studies in which 269 people recalled and wrote about a time when they felt authentic or inauthentic and rated themselves on a scale, the extent to which the event they described made them feel impure, dirty and tainted.

They found that inauthentic experiences made participants feel more impure and less moral than authentic ones, even if it involved lying to themselves or lying to others. So, people experience inauthenticity as a moral state.

The authors also found a link between inauthenticity and pro-social behaviour in the form of helping and donating money.

In an experiment, the researchers placed hand sanitizers at the participants’ desks and also asked them to donate to a charity. They found that participants in the inauthentic-behaviour condition were more likely to donate when they did not clean their hands.

“The act of cleaning their hands assuaged participants’ feelings of impurity from acting inauthentically and reduced their motivation to compensate for these feelings by acting pro-socially,” said the authors.

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