Psychology on How We Justify Wrong Things Especially if Done in Desperation

It is generally observed that, knowing the person’s desperation, people tend to justify the person’s wrong i.e. unethical, illegal actions. Following posts are some examples of such desperation:

If someone stole bread to feed their family, would you consider them a bad person? and Does profiting from shortage of supplies in desperation, make it any better?

Even if it’s a bad act we still might defend it, here’s 5 reasons from psychological perspective on how we end up justifying wrong things.

5 Reasons Why we may Justify Wrong things

To better understand why we may justify such actions, following are 5 reasons:


Empathy is the ability to understand others feelings and connect with them emotionally. While empathy is a positive trait that helps us connect with others, it can lead us to justify actions that are wrong.

When we feel empathy for someone who has done something wrong, especially if they were in a desperate situation, we may find ourselves wanting to understand and excuse their actions. We may justify it like, “They did it because of ___ so it’s understandable,” or “If they hadn’t done it ___ would’ve have happened.”

But there’s also possibility that while we are focused on understanding the person’s situation, we might end up overlooking the negative consequences of their actions. So, it’s important to find a balance and make sure that we are not excusing or defending behavior that is ultimately harmful.

Confirmation Bias

If the someone’s wrong actions resonate with our existing beliefs, then we may end up defending them. Like interpreting the situation in a way that confirms our existing beliefs i.e. confirmation bias.

As we’re looking from self-interest point of view, the motivation to justify the wrong actions would be different, compared to empathy.


To prevent damage to our concept of self i.e. ego, we may end up defending the wrong actions. It’s like when we believe, we would have done the same thing in that situation. And if we don’t defend this, it’s like an attack to our own ego.

Do note that ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a concept that includes what we think of our self. Visit the underlined link at the start to know more about ego.

Group Pressure

Group pressure exists and, if we don’t have any strong opinions on the subject, we may go along with group to avoid the social disapproval.

How a group feels about something depends on what kind of group it is, as different groups have different interests. But, group pressure may lead us to justifying wrong actions even if we didn’t wanted to.

Avoiding Conflict in Beliefs

Some situations are complex and new information that is conflicting to our existing beliefs may cause mental discomfort, known as dissonance.

To reduce this mental stress, we may ignore or downplay the negative consequences of wrong actions, ultimately justifying them.


The world isn’t black or white, but grey too. But that certainly doesn’t excuse wrong actions all the time.

So, if someone commits a severe crime using the desperations as an excuse, they might gain some moral sympathy from people, but they’ll probably still end up being sentenced. Although defense attorneys may try to put forward the circumstances that led to the crime, for a lenient sentence.

To conclude, by knowing about such justifications, we can try to be objective. Like when to question and challenge assumptions or societal norms that may be harmful.

If you liked this post then you may enjoy reading about Psychology on how we Hold Ourselves back