The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves

by Dan Ariely


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Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and the New York Times bestselling author of The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational, examines the contradictory forces that drive us to cheat and keep us honest, in this groundbreaking look at the way we behave: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.

From ticket-fixing in our police departments to test-score scandals in our schools, from our elected leaders’ extra-marital affairs to the Ponzi schemes undermining our economy, cheating and dishonesty are ubiquitous parts of our national news cycle—and inescapable parts of the human condition.

Drawing on original experiments and research, in the vein of Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, and Survival of the Sickest, Ariely reveals—honestly—what motivates these irrational, but entirely human, behaviors.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062183613
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/18/2013
Pages: 313
Sales rank: 109,841
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Dan Ariely is the bestselling author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. He is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and is the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and elsewhere. He lives in North Carolina with his family.

Table of Contents


Why Is Dishonesty So Interesting?

From Enron to our own misbehaviors

A fascination with cheating

Becker's parking problem and the birth of rational crime

Elderly volunteers and petty thieves

Why behavioral economics and dishonesty? 1

Chapter 1 Testing the Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC)

Get rich cheating

Tempting people to cheat, the measure of dishonesty

What we know versus what we think we know about dishonesty

Cheating when we can't get caught

Market vendors, cab drivers, and cheating the blind

Fishing and tall tales

Striking a balance between truth and cheating 11

Chapter 2 Fun with the Fudge Factor

Why some things are easier to steal than others

How companies pave the way for dishonesty

Token dishonesty

How pledges, commandments, honor codes, and paying with cash can support honesty

But lock your doors just the same

And a bit about religion, the IRS, and insurance companies 31

Chapter 2 B Golf

Man versus himself

A four-inch lie

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to take the mulligan

Schrödinger's scorecard. 55

Chapter 3 Blinded by Our Own Motivations

Craze lines, tattoos, and how conflicts of interest distort our perception

How favors affect our choices

Why full disclosure and other policies aren't fully effective

Imagining less conflicted compensation

Disclosure and regulation are the answers-or not. 67

Chapter 4 Why We Blow It When We're Tired

Why we don't binge in the morning

Willpower: another limited resource

Judgment on an empty stomach

How flexing our cognitive and moral muscles can make us more dishonest

Self-depletion and a rational theory of temptation. 97

Chapter 5 Why Wearing Fakes Makes Us Cheat More

The secret language of shoes

From ermine to Armani and the importance of signaling

Do knockoffs knock down our standards of honesty?

Can gateway fibs lead to monster lies?

When "what the hell" wreaks havoc

There's no such thing as one little white lie

Halting the downward spiral 117

Chapter 6 Cheating Ourselves

Claws and peacock tails

When answer keys tell us what we already knew

Overly optimistic IQ scores

The Center for Advanced Hindsight

Being Kubrick

War heroes and sports heroes who let us down

Helping ourselves to a better self-image 141

Chapter 7 Creativity and Dishonesty: We Are All Storytellers

The tales we tell ourselves and how we create stories we can believe

Why creative people are better liars

Redrawing the lines until we see what we want

When irritation spurs us onward

How thinking creatively can get us into trouble. 163

Chapter 8 Cheating as an Infection: How We Catch the Dishonesty Germ

Catching the cheating bug

One bad apple really does spoil the barrel (unless that apple goes to the University of Pittsburgh)

How ambiguous rules + group dynamics = cultures of cheating

A possible road to ethical health. 191

Chapter 9 Collaborative Cheating: Why Two Heads Aren't Necessarily Better than One

Lessons from an ambiguous boss

All eyes are on you: observation and cheating

Working together to cheat more?

Or keeping one another in line

Cheating charitably

Building trust and taking liberties

Playing well with others. 217

Chapter 10 A Semioptimistic Ending: People Don't Cheat Enough!

Cheer up! Why we should not be too depressed by this book

True crime

Cultural differences in dishonesty

Politicians or bankers, who cheats more?

How can we improve our moral health? 237

Chapter 11 Some Reflections on Religion and (Dis)honesty 255

Thanks 283

List of Collaborators 285

Notes 293

Bibliography and Additional Readings 295

Index 303

What People are Saying About This

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“I was shocked at how prevalent mild cheating was and how much more harmful it can be, cumulatively, compared to outright fraud. This is Dan Ariely’s most interesting and most useful book.”

David Brooks

“I thought [Ariely’s] book was an outstanding encapsulation of the good hearted and easygoing moral climate of the age.”

A.J. Jacobs

“Anyone who lies should read this book. And those who claim not to tell lies are liars. So they sould read this book too. This is a fascinating, learned, and funny book that will make you a better person.”

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The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love books that make me think. This highly entertaining and easy to understand book challenged my thinking all the way through. I told everyone about it everywhere I went since the studies were so fascinating and the documentation was so clear. I learned much from the book especially about how my creativity has served me so well all my life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PROS Informative and eye opening. After reading this book you cant help but look at your everyday life a little differently. Dan Ariely takes his time in explaining why we "fudge" the facts just enough so that we can get what we want... but still believe that we are not doing anything wrong. He does this in many creative ways, including fun anecdotes and interesting studies. At the end he quickly sums it all up and offers suggestions to society for the overall improvement of our moral compass. Quick read, not hard to follow for the most part. CONS Many of the issues in this book are similar, and after 5 or six of them it can get a little repetitive. While some of the experiments hold very valid points, a great deal of the others feel as though they were thrown together on a whim. Many of the conclusions that Ariely draws from these haphazard experiments feel as though he somehow reached an EPIC LIFE CHANGING discovery... but the reader is not always sure how they got to such a SPECIFIC statement. BOTTOM LINE If you are looking for an eye opening weekend book that you can discuss for a few hours with friends, this is the book for you. Using studies and social experiments (both industrial-strength and diluted) Dan Ariely shows us how we all have a little bit of the "fudge factor." FAVORITE QUOTE "Facts are for people who lack the imagination to create their own truth." - Anonymous
popscipopulizer More than 1 year ago
There is certainly no shortage of lying, cheating and corruption in our society today. At their worst, these phenomena do substantial damage to our communities and the people in them. Picking on the corporate world for just a moment, consider a few high-profile examples from the last decade: the scandals at Enron, WorldCom, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Haliburton, Kmart, Tyco, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and a host of banks in the financial crisis of 2008. If you are a particularly pessimistic person, you may think that people are fundamentally self-interested, and will engage in dishonest and corrupt behaviour so long as the potential benefits of this behaviour outweigh the possibility of being caught multiplied by the punishment involved (known as the Simple Model of Rational Crime or SMORC). On the other hand, if you are a particularly optimistic person, you may think that the lying and cheating that we see in our society is largely the result of a few bad apples in the bunch. Given that the way we attempt to curb cheating and corruption depends largely on which view we think is correct, we would do well if we could come up with a proper understanding of these tendencies, and under what circumstances they are either heightened or diminished. Over the past several years, the behavioural economist Dan Ariely, together with a few colleagues, has attempted to do just this--by way of bringing dishonesty into the science lab. Ariely reveals his findings in his new book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves. In order to get at the truth, Ariely invited subjects into his lab and gave them tasks with monetary rewards, and where cheating was a very real and clear possibility. As you can tell from the title of the book, Ariely found that cheating was not in fact confined to a few bad apples, but was in fact very widespread. On the bright side, though, Ariely also found that the vast majority of his subjects did not cheat nearly as much as they could have, but instead confined themselves to just a little bit of cheating. Given his findings, Ariely concludes that most of us are torn between two conflicting impulses. On the one hand is the desire to get ahead by way of dishonesty, and on the other hand is the desire to nevertheless think of ourselves as genuinely honest and good people. Getting the best of the both worlds can be tricky, but we manage to do so by way of resorting to our trusty capacities of rationalization and self-deception. Of course, different people show different powers of rationalization and self-deception, and also different circumstances can alter the terms of the negotiation significantly for each of us, thus leading to more or less cheating. For instance, Ariely found that those who are especially creative are particularly good at rationalization and self-deception, and therefore tend to cheat more so than others. In addition, he also found that several factors influence the amount that people cheat in general. These factors included being reminded of one's morals; having one's resolve broken down by will-power depletion; having one's self-confidence artificially inflated; witnessing other people cheating; cheating to benefit others etc. A full and comprehensive summary of the main argument in the book, as well as many of the juicier details and anecdotes to be found therein, will be available at newbooksinbrief dot wordpress dot com, on or before Monday, Jul
Jaylia3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Entertaining, eye-opening, disturbingThis funny, fascinating, personal paradigm shattering book is in a genre I love, books that make me examine my thinking process, but this one caused me more soul searching than any other I¿ve read. According to the Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC) we decide whether or not to be dishonest based on a logical, mathematically calibrated cost-benefit analysis, and we¿d all be as dishonest as we could be as long as it brought us a benefit greater than the likely cost. Fortunately, author Dan Ariely discovered that people aren¿t as cold-bloodedly calculating as that. Unfortunately, the news about human morality isn¿t all good.Ariely is very skilled at conceiving, conducting and describing experiments that tease apart the tangle of human motivations. According to what he¿s discovered, we¿ll cheat, lie and steal, but only as much as we can rationalize because we want to be able to feel good about ourselves. We¿re all capable of dishonesty, and being natural story tellers we¿re extremely adept at creating perfectly logical seeming explanations justifying our less than moral actions, though we rarely understand exactly why we make the choices we do. We invariably underestimate how much we are influenced by a myriad of circumstances ranging from conflict of interest to how tired we are feeling.Since we want to see ourselves as good, most of us never stray far from the straight and narrow path, but small frequent transgressions can create bigger problems than the egregious acts of a few bad apples. Our collective peccadilloes can wreck havoc, but with an improved understanding of the situations that increase dishonest behavior Arliey hopes his book can be a guide for corrective actions and legislation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I definitely thought the ideas were interesting...too many case studies drew the book out too much for my liking.