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The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves

By Dan Ariely
15-minute read
Audio available
The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely

Using various experiments to uncover the hidden factors that drive us to cheat in everyday situations, author Dan Ariely finds that certain anticipated motivators – for example, money – actually don’t play a crucial role in our dishonesty. At the same time, other, quite unexpected forces influence us very strongly – for instance, the social acceptability of cheating, and even our altruistic tendencies.

  • Anyone who considers themselves to be a good, honest and honorable person
  • Anyone interested in the psychology of irrationality
  • Anyone who wonders why people constantly cheat and lie

Dan Ariely is professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. His main field of interest is the psychology of irrationality. In addition to The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty,Ariely is the author of two other international bestsellers: Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality.

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The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves

By Dan Ariely
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely
Synopsis

Using various experiments to uncover the hidden factors that drive us to cheat in everyday situations, author Dan Ariely finds that certain anticipated motivators – for example, money – actually don’t play a crucial role in our dishonesty. At the same time, other, quite unexpected forces influence us very strongly – for instance, the social acceptability of cheating, and even our altruistic tendencies.

Key idea 1 of 9

There is no shortage of lying, cheating and corruption in our society today.

Do you think that just a “few bad apples” are responsible for most of the cheating in the world, or that the problem is actually more widespread?

Unfortunately, the correct answer is the latter: We all cheat.

Take, for example, a gift shop located in a Washington DC arts center, which was run like a traditional “lemonade stand,” using just a cash box instead of a cash register.

Although business was good, each year $150,000 would go missing.

The organization searched for the thief, eventually finding and dismissing the employee they believed was stealing the money.

That should've been the end of the matter. However, money continued to disappear.

Finally, the organization decided it should manage the shop more strictly, setting up an inventory system with price lists and sales records.

It worked: from that point on, no more money went missing.

So, who stole all that money?

It turned out that, all along, the problem was not just one thief, but many well-meaning volunteers who each took just a small amount of cash.

Of course, cheating sometimes occurs on a much grander scale. Consider the example of Enron, one of the largest firms in the United States, which had achieved its massive success by means of a series of “creative” accounting techniques.

Essentially, Enron's employees had been “cooking the books” or lying about their revenues and profits. Moreover, they were assisted by consultants, rating agencies and Enron's board of directors, all of whom turned a blind eye to the deception.

As the lies spread throughout Enron, the deception intensified. Ultimately, when the truth was made public, the company collapsed.

If it were true that just a “few bad apples” were responsible for most of the cheating in the world, the problem might be fairly easy to solve. However, as we’ll see in the following blinks, most of the world's deception is actually made up of many different and subtle kinds of dishonest acts that each of us regularly practice.

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