The truth is, we’re all more likely to lie when money is at stake. Psychologists have found that just the mere mention of money triggers something in the human brain that makes us more susceptible to give in to the temptation of behaving unethically. Namely, lying to earn more money or lying to prevent monetary loss.
Compounding this sinister human tendency are two overarching factors: Simply having a lot of money makes us more prone to being dishonest, and so does a history of lying and getting away with it. As it turns out, the more lies we tell, the more inclined we are to continue to lie again and again in the future.
Of course, no two lies hold the same weight. Some are downright criminal, while others are more easily brushed under the rug. Here are the circumstances in which we’re most inclined to let our love of money outshine our moral compass. (See also: The 10 Biggest Lies We Tell Ourselves About Money)
1. When We Want to Dodge a Paywall
A third of Americans think it’s acceptable to use someone else’s account login to avoid paying subscription fees for online movies, music, or news articles. And if the temptation to login to another person’s Netflix account arises while you’re in a dark room, psychologists say you’re even more likely to give in to it. That’s because the absence of light actually makes us more inclined to act on an impulse to lie or cheat. Psychologists say it all boils down to the illusion of anonymity. Even though you aren’t actually more anonymous in the dark, you feel as though you are. Experiencing this sense of “no one’s looking” makes us more likely to do something dishonest.
So, the next time you feel the urge to mooch on a friend’s HBO Go account, turn on a light!
2. When We File Our Taxes
Under-reporting under-the-table income to the IRS in order to pay less in taxes is deemed acceptable by 24% of Americans — even though it could lead to prosecution. Recent research offers an inkling behind why some Americans would risk criminal penalties just to save an extra buck: We’re more likely to cheat when we think there’s more to go around. When there are plenty of resources — in this case, Uncle Sam’s piggy bank — we believe that our own behavior won’t have much of an impact in the grand scheme of things.