The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty Paperback – 18 Aug 2013
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‘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.’
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan
‘A captivating and astute study […] In his characteristic spry, cheerful style, Ariely delves deep into the conundrum of human (dis)honesty in the hopes of discovering ways to help us control our behaviour and improve our outcomes.’ Publishers Weekly
‘Lucid and succinct as always […] Required reading for politicians and Wall Street executives’
From the Back Cover
The New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality returns with thought-provoking work to challenge our preconceptions about dishonesty and urge us to take an honest look at ourselves.
- Does the chance of getting caught affect how likely we are to cheat?
- How do companies pave the way for dishonesty?
- Does collaboration make us more honest or less so?
- Does religion improve our honesty?
Most of us think of ourselves as honest, but, in fact, we all cheat. From Washington to Wall Street, the classroom to the workplace, unethical behavior is everywhere. None of us is immune, whether it's the white lie to head off trouble or padding our expense reports. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, award-winning, bestselling author Dan Ariely turns his unique insight and innovative research to the question of dishonesty.
Generally, we assume that cheating, like most other decisions, is based on a rational cost-benefit analysis. But Ariely argues, and then demonstrates, that it's actually the irrational forces that we don't take into account that often determine whether we behave ethically or not. For every Enron or political bribe, there are countless puffed resumes, hidden commissions, and knockoff purses. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Ariely shows why some things are easier to lie about; how getting caught matters less than we think; and how business practices pave the way for unethical behavior, both intentionally and unintentionally. Ariely explores how unethical behavior works in the personal, professional, and political worlds, and how it affects all of us, even as we think of ourselves as having high moral standards.
But all is not lost. Ariely also identifies what keeps us honest, pointing the way for achieving higher ethics in our everyday lives. With compelling personal and academic findings, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty will change the way we see ourselves, our actions, and others.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
I have read other work by Ariely and I was in the audience for the launch of his previous book at which he made a speech that I found highly engaging and intelligent. I therefore expected this book to be well presented, entertaining and interesting. I was not disappointed. Many of the issues addressed, such as whether you should trust your dentist more if you know him or her well, what makes some people more dishonest than others and how do different situations encourage everyone to cheat less or more, are both surprising and rich in their implications for human society.
I am surprised at some of the slightly negative comments among the reviews. This is a quick, light read suitable for a wide audience. It doesn't give much detail of the research but there is no doubt about its validity. Ariely is a leader in his field and his research is highly respected. If anything I think the fault with the book is that its tone is so light it is easy to overlook how serious and weighty some of its findings are.
However, if you are worried about those comments and want something more detailed and rigorous I strongly recommend Daniel Kahnemann's Thinking Fast and Slow which covers similar and sometimes overlapping research. (I also attended Kahneman's book launch and found him highly intelligent though not as engaging as Ariely). It's a better book but, be warned, it's a much bigger investment in time and effort.
Many of the reviewers also seem to scoff that Ariely's findings are obvious. Ariely has the perfect answer to this. He says he often encounters such a reaction and sometimes asks people to predict the results of experiments before he reveals them. He finds a classic instance of self deception: if asked beforehand, people can't predict the results but if asked afterwards, they think they already knew. Self deception is so powerful, even having this explained at the beginning of the book does not seem to have overcome it.
Psychiatrists talk of 'protective factors', maybe thoughts about a loved one, which causes a patient intent on harming himself to stop. Temptation also has protective factors that we can call upon in that cusp of indecision. As a poor student, I lost my wallet running between trains at Birmingham. It was handed in complete and I have never forgotten my gratitude. A year ago when parking, my front tyre went over what turned out to be someone's wallet. I'm sure the devil would have reserved for me a nice warm seat if I had kept that wallet, but it would also have destroyed any positive emotion that I received from those experiences as a student, and rightly so too. Last month, here in Manchester, a man was coming from the bank with £1000 in his hand; he somehow tripped and the money promptly blew away. Sitting in his car a few minutes later- people started banging on the window in order to return the cash: 49, £20 notes were returned and my view is that those 49 people who acted in this way were enriched by that act; more so, than spending £20 that wasn't theirs, could ever have done.
I wonder therefore if it's important that we humans struggle with these dilemmas, if only because it enriches and 'validates' our lives. I appreciate that we won't all do the right thing all the time, but I believe that the vast majority on most occasions will do exactly that; and more than this we will all have a line - like giving a blind lady rotten tomatoes - that we simply will never cross.
I liked the section on how we lie to ourselves. For the politician who stands up and lies to millions, it could, kindly, be called 'being in denial' and on a lesser scale, surely we all lie to ourselves and maybe it's called confidence! One late night on call; I admitted 4 patients one after another to the same hospital. The doctor who received them berated me for handing him so much work and of course I would like to tell you that I saved 4 lives that night - but perhaps he would say that my confidence had suddenly evaporated and I was just playing it safe.
I worry about the so called victimless crime. Those who feign illness and live 'off the state' - who can it possibly hurt? Perhaps those who bear this burden on their taxes for one; and also those who are genuinely disabled. Also those who really try to stand up do the right thing and to better themselves - it must be hard when the chap next door stays in bed all day and has more money in his pocket! In addition those who cheat in this way lead half-lives which in turn leads to far more mental and physical problems.
So, as this book concludes, perhaps we all need to constantly remind ourselves of those factors which encourage us to do the right thing, not give in to temptation and continually strive to be 'better' people - its a good , stimulating read. Many thanks.
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