Have you ever told a friend a made-up story to entertain that person or spare his or her feelings? Do you know anyone who confessed to you he or she overreported the number of hours worked to pad a paycheck? Some may think of these “white lies,” or small instances of dishonest behavior, as relatively harmless, a slight ethical lapse, when compared with full-scale corporate fraud. We may consider a white lie to be especially harmless if it is in service of protecting an important relationship. Researchers have studied the potential financial and legal consequences of such small instances of dishonesty as padding expense reports and pilfering pens. But are these consequences all that we should be concerned about? We examined the possibility that small instances of dishonest behavior have unintended consequences for our emotional intelligence—it seeps into our ability to read others’ emotions. Our research indicates the harm is real—and lasting.
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