Dishonesty Essay

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Have you ever told a lie? Or cheated - harmlessly enough, maybe by accident, you realized later? If your answer is yes, do not despair -- all is not lost, and there is a good chance that your counterparts who answered “no” are lying. Human behavior - regardless of culture, creed, country of origin, or religion - is irrationally peppered with numerous, documented examples of lying and cheating. Individually and collectively, people lie to and cheat everyone -- especially ourselves. We lie a lot, says behavioral economist Dan Ariely. The central thesis of Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty is that human behavior is driven by two conflicting motivations, and that most human values are not compatible all of the time. On one hand, most people want to view themselves as honest, honorable individuals; to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and feel good about what we see (ego motivation). On the other hand, it’s equally natural to want to benefit from cheating and to get as much money, or reward, as possible (standard financial motivation). When people are faced with two conflicting values, one of those values has to give, bend, or break; typically, it is honesty that is sacrificed to ego. Ariely believes that “all of us continuously try to identify the line where we can benefit from dishonesty without damaging our own self-image,” and wonders how we might “secure the benefits of cheating and at the same time still view ourselves as honest, wonderful people?” (Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty p. 28) While most people generally consider themselves moral and honest, Ariely asks: where is the line? Ariely’s theory that everyone cheats in miniscule ways strays from the traditional “cost-analysis” model o... ... middle of paper ... ...ple one typically associates with cheating…In fact, they were just like you, me and most of the people on this planet, which means that all of us are perfectly capable of cheating a little bit.” Good people may cheat from time to time, but “we pass up the vast majority of these opportunities every day without thinking that we should take them.” Ariely tells us that reminders at the moment of temptation (such as honesty pledges signed before a test) and an understanding of how conflicts of interest work and influence us “makes it clear that we need to avoid and regulate conflicts of interest to a much higher degree.” (p. 248) Social mechanisms that reset our moral compass - such as honesty pledges, religious and non-religious “resetting rituals” - present us with numerous opportunities to take pause, collect ourselves, stop the degringolade, and ultimately begin anew.

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