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How Much Sacrifice Is Your Reputation Worth?

Andy Vonasch, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues conducted an online survey of 111 Americans about the value of reputation. Of the respondents, 40 percent said they would choose a year in jail and a clean reputation over no jail and a criminal reputation. Incarceration is directly harmful, but “reputation is what helps you gain access to all of the things you want in society,” Vonasch says. In similarly sized surveys, 70 percent of respondents told Vonasch’s team they would give up their dominant hand to avoid a swastika face tattoo; 53 percent would choose immediate death over a long life as a suspected child molester; and 30 percent would take immediate death over a long and happy life followed by postmortem rumors of child molestation.

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