Everyone lies. Everyone cheats. From Marcy down the street cheating on her diet to Bernie Madoff committing massive finanical fraud, we’re all a little dishonest from time to time. With the power of experimentats and research, Dan Ariely seeks to learn what leads humans to act dishonestly in The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.
The Gooey Center
Since reading Predictably Irrational earlier this year, I’ve really liked reading Dan Ariely; his writing style is familiar yet authoritative, making for highly readable books filled with high-quality experiments and meaningful insights. The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty is a similar read to Predictably Irrational, but with a tight focus on what drives the common man to lie and cheat.
The main takeaway is, given the chance, most people will cheat just a little given the opportunity. Ariely’s experiments found that very few people cheated heavily, even in situations where the likelihood of being caught is minimal. Rounding up your billable hours on a timesheet is easy to do without a shred of guilt, and the likelihood of getting caught is approximately nil. On the other hand, fudging an hour or two in a single day is not something anyone I know would take lightly. Unfortunately, if you round up billable hours by 10 minutes a day for a whole week, you’ve fudged nearly an hour of billable work (without the guilt).
Day-to-day living makes us less honest. If you’ve had a long day at work, you’re more likely to cheat on your diet when you get home because your defenses have been torn down. You’re more likely to put things off in favor of sitting around watching television.
Ariely finds that collaboration also leads to more dishonesty: as humans, we are more willing to bend the rules if it will benefit someone else, especially if we have befriended that someone else.
Who Would Like This
Those interested in behavioral economics should get a kick out of this book, especially if they enjoyed Ariely’s other works. Reading this book can also make you think more critically about some of the “little white lies” you tell yourself and others throught the day.