Your Teacher Was Right, Only A Full Confession Can Cleanse Guilt

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Telling the whole truth may be the only way to ease feelings of guilt.

People feel worse when they tell only part of the truth compared to people who come clean, according to new research.

Cheaters who confess just part of a wrongdoing were also judged more harshly by others than those who didn’t confess at all, according to five experiments involving 4,167 people from all over the United States.

The article, “I Cheated but Only a Little“, appears in the February issue of American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Lead author Eyal Pe’er, who ran the studies at Carnegie Mellon University, says it’s best to commit to an all-or-nothing approach.

Confessing to only part of a transgression is attractive because people expect this to be more believable and guilt-relieving than not confessing.

“But our findings show just the opposite is true,” he says.

“Paradoxically, people seeking redemption by partially admitting their big lies feel guiltier because they do not take complete responsibility for their behaviors.

“True guilt relief may require people to fully come clean.”

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