Worriers who feel guilty before doing anything wrong – just may stay on the straight and narrow

A new study found that worriers who begin to chastise themselves at the mere thought of doing something wrong are less likely to behave immorally as a result of their unwavable conscience.

In contrast some 30 to 40 per cent of people fit the opposite category and give very little forethought to how their actions will make them feel – a recipe for unethical behaviour, psychologists say.

Women are more likely to feel pre-emptive guilt than men, and older people tend to anticipate feelings of shame and regret better than those who are younger and less experienced in life.

Writing in the Current Directions in Psychological Science journal, experts explained the difference between guilt – the feeling of remorse when you have done something wrong – and “guilt proneness”, where you anticipate feeling ashamed before you have actually done any wrong.

People who are predisposed to such thoughts make better friends, lovers and employees because they are so aware of their own behaviour that they do not need anyone to supervise them or keep them in check, they said…

Four items drawn from the Guilt and Shame Proneness scale (GASP), a test in which people are required to imagine how they would feel in a variety of different situations, can be combined to form “an important measurement tool for predicting which individuals are likely to behave unethically in their social interactions inside and outside the workplace,” they wrote…

As a result they are less prone to lie, cheat or behave immorally when they conduct a business deal or spot an opportunity to make money, studies suggest.

They are also likely to make better employees because people who think less about the future results of their actions are more likely to be late, to steal or to be rude to clients…

However, a paper published earlier this year indicated that a phenomenon dubbed the “cheater’s high” can outweigh feelings of shame and make people feel good about behaving badly.

Volunteers who cheated during a series of problem-solving tasks were consistently found to feel better about themselves than those who played fairly.

RTFA for the range of conclusions drawn by psychology professionals. What it mostly indicates is that we are a truly screwed-up species.

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