When it comes to honesty, ethics, and the dividing line between our values and our actions, we point you to Dan Ariely, best-selling author and professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University. Wired editor Joanna Pearlstein recently posted a lively discussion she had with him at a business forum: Why We Lie, Go to Prison and Eat Cake: 10 Questions With Dan Ariely.
In the interview, Ariely talks about some of the issues that are in his new book, The Honest Truth of Dishonesty. He looks at such issues as how the chance of getting caught affects us, why the potential for even dire consequences may not deter us from lying or cheating, and how our “fudge factor” allows us to incrementally rationalize dishonesty. The crux of the interview and the thrust of topic of his new book can be summed up with a few lines from one of Ariely’s recent blog posts: “Every day, people are finding new and more creative ways to cheat, and to justify their dishonest behavior, regardless of the negative impact their actions might have on others. What’s most worrying about this trend is that we still fail to grasp the extent of our dishonesty. But it doesn’t have to be like this. If, on a global scale, we worked to understand the root of our dishonesty, and motivated each other to overcome it, we could do much better.”
Related to this interview, we point you to Ariely’s engaging, amusing, and thought-provoking Ted Talk, Why We Think It’s OK to Cheat and Steal (Sometimes). Ariely talks about many of his experiments testing the boundaries of honesty and cheating. Here’s a brief description of the talk:
“One of the challenges of human life is what’s good for us in the long term often doesn’t seem good for us right now. Dieting, for example, is not so much fun now, but good for the future; the same goes for saving money or submitting to preventive medical tests. When we face such tradeoffs, we often focus on the short term rather than our long-terms goals, and in the process we get ourselves into trouble. But wait! There is hope. By understanding where we fall short, there are methods we can use to overcome our natural (and less than desirable) inclinations.”
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