People Will Do Just About Anything to Protect Their Reputation, Study Finds

Fagjun | Published 2017-09-02 04:11

What are you willing to lose to protect your reputation? [Photo by Mohamed Nohassi]


Would you rather lose a hand or be known forever as a Nazi? The answer to this might give us an idea as to the lengths that people will go to just to protect their reputation.


While we'd all like to maintain a good reputation, we may not realize what we'd be prepared to do just to protect it. All throughout humanity's history, we have had people who'd rather give up something important to them, even their own lives, rather than be known to be a coward or someone dishonorable. Good captains, as they say, go down with their ships. Bad ones show up on the shore, the wreck of their ship—and their good reputation—far behind them.


The results of a new study show that our reputations may actually be more important to us than we think. Researchers included the results of a number of previous studies on reputation, then confirmed the results with their own findings.


What People Would Do to Protect Their Reputation

Captain Edward J. Smith, captain of the Titanic, who embodied the saying


According to sociology and psychology, our reputation is what enables us to survive in a cooperative society. A poor reputation will most likely turn us into pariahs, which will make it difficult for us to survive or live in society among others. Thus, we go to great lengths to make sure that our reputation is a good one. After all, back when human societies were young, banishment from the tribe can mean certain death.


Previous research presented people who were willing to put themselves at some sort of disadvantage rather than retain a bad reputation. In one study, 166 university students were asked if they'd rather have their dominant hand cut off, or have a large swastika tattooed on their face. 70% of the participants said they'd rather lose a hand that be known as a Nazi.


Another group of 115 respondents, meanwhile, were asked to choose between dying on the spot or living a long life of being known as a pedophile. 53% said that they'd rather die right then and protect their reputation.


The research team then created their own experiment to supplement the findings of previous research. They had volunteers take fake tests that supposedly uncover hidden racism in test takers. The researchers then gave the participants a choice: they can either pick an option like submerging their hands in a vat of worms or having their “secret” racism published for the world to see.


Degrees of Desirability

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