Why We Lie, Cheat, and Steal: The Truth About Dishonesty

I’ve just finished the 5th week of my 4th year of graduate school. For folks that have been in graduate school this long, there’s usually a development of research interests. Because of the nature of my time in graduate school (1 year in a PhD program, 1 year completing my first Master’s, and now into year two of an MBA), I never really had to declare my research interests or choose a dissertation topic. Though, for my first master’s, I did have to write a final paper. That final paper was on a topic that, if I were asked, would probably appear on a list of my “research interests.” It was on intuition and decision-making. Ironically, I’m working with a professor at George Mason University to test whether or not one can improve the conditions for one’s intuition (in the context of decision-making).

If I were to list another research interest, I’d have to say that it’d be on the topic of ethics or morals. Ironically, during my time as an undergrad, I worked on a research project with a psychology professor where we were examining (among other things) people’s moral judgments. I’ve had an RSA Animate talk bookmarked for about two weeks and I just finished watching it — I think you’ll enjoy it.

It was given by Dan Ariely on the content of his new book: The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves. Ariely is also the researcher I referenced a few months ago when I was talking about the research on American’s perceptions and misperceptions of wealth inequality. I’ve pulled a few important quotes from the video:

“The magnitude of dishonesty we see in society is by good people who think they’re doing good, but in fact cheating just a little bit, but because there’s so many of them — of us — it has a tremendous economic impact.”

“You can’t go and say to yourselves, chef really want their food to be eaten. And it’s really owned by a conglomerate that is really not that good. Some things lend themselves to a much higher degree of rationalization.”

“At some point, many people switch and start cheating all the time. And we call this switching point the ‘what the hell’ effect. It turns out we don’t have to be 100% good to think of ourselves as good. But if at some point you don’t think of yourself as good, you might as well enjoy. And many people, by the way, report this same thing with diets.”

“Your motivation influences how you see reality.”

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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