Dan Ariely - The Truth about Dishonesty

If I were to ask you if you are an honest person, chances are that you'd say yes. Yet, if we look at the details of your everyday behavior with a magnifying glass, we'd most likely discover all sorts of ways in which you lie, cheat and steal, on a regular basis! Notice the irony? In answering a question about your own honesty, you behave dishonestly! Well, it's not quite that straightforward. It's not so much that you'd be lying to me; it's more that you'd be lying to yourself, and then to the rest of us as a consequence.

Our minds have an incredible capacity for compartmentalization: we separate into distinct groups instances of what ought to be logically identical situations, such as when you create the double standard that it's okay for you to take home some office supplies from work, but that it's not okay to steal an equivalent amount of money from the petty cash box. The other thing we're really good at in this context is rationalization: when confronted with our dishonesty, we are masters at justifying our behavior and turning it around to sound heroic: "it's okay for me to illegally download music because that means I'm standing up for freedom and fighting the corruption of multi-billion dollar music label companies, so if you think about it, I'm kind of a moral hero."

Well, in the following RSA animated presentation, Dan Ariely shares some of the fascinating findings of how everyday people like you and me cheat all the time, and what might be some useful mechanisms we can use to decrease our own corruption.

If you liked that, you might also like to check our our selection of TED Talk presentations.
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