Whoever says our feelings don’t matter is probably ignorant to the fact that feelings are often in the driver seat of our decision-making Ferrari. It is our feelings or anticipated feelings that drive us to do what we do, despite our head-knowledge on moral behavior and our agreement with what is relatively “right” and “wrong”.

Criminal behavior such as shoplifting is included in this connection with feelings and impulsive or planned stealing. Interestingly, a recent study revealed that it didn’t matter what a person’s financial state was when it came to shoplifting. In the past, celebrities have been caught stealing when they clearly have the money to afford the item for which they were caught trying to remove from the store without paying for. The stereotype of a “poor” person stealing from a store isn’t always accurate in every instance.

Perception is reality

What the study revealed was that shoplifting shared a commonality with the feeling of deprivation. In reality, a person may have enough money to purchase the item, but if he or she is in a state of mind that makes them feel deprived of money, they are more likely to steal rather than pay for it. In fact, a person who went from earning a higher amount each year and is still making good money despite having their income reduced may feel financially deprived still. It is the perception of deprivation and therefore feeling constricted financially that sparks the urge to steal goods from a store.

Moral flexibility and justification

The study conducted sheds light on the flexibility of moral beliefs among different states of mind. When a person has a deprived state of mind, the moral beliefs shift and justifications are raised to accommodate this change. This can happen to a person who is recently divorced and feels financially constricted, even if that person receives enough spousal support and/or child support and has a regular job. The shift in a person’s circumstances may alter their moral convictions and therefore their behavior as a result.

Shoplifting is a crime despite its reasoning behind its actions. However, when you understand why you or someone you know is more prone to behave in a certain way, there is hope for change. You can change your state of mind despite what your bank account looks like and make positive strides to have an abundance mentality rather than a scarcity mindset. It is possible to make this shift and stay on the high-road of moral behavior.