“So we find that this emotion of compassion, which in many cases is socially beneficial, can actually lead to behavior that harms others. I think it’s important that people be aware of this so that compassion does not lead them astray when another’s well-being is at stake.”
But it would be a mistake to assume that compassion always increases prosocial lying. Under some circumstances it could have the opposite effect.
“As with all laboratory studies, we can’t claim that these effects hold for all people in all contexts,” Lupoli said. “There may be situations where compassion does not increase prosocial lying, or actually increases honesty. For example, if the benefits of honesty for another far exceed the benefits of lying, experiencing compassion might lead one to be more honest. We are currently looking into how compassion influences the valuation of others’ short-term and long-term goals to better understand the boundary conditions.”
The study, “Lying Because We Care: Compassion Increases Prosocial Lying“, was also co-authored by Lily Jampol and Christopher Oveis.