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4.3 out of 5 stars
The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty
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VINE VOICEon 5 June 2012
Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, has conducted a lot of experiments and has a ton of data available for interpretation. In this book, he saves us the trouble of sifting through his data and does the interpretation himself. This is quite a time-saver, but it would be nice if he had included the data he collected so we might have an idea of how he came to his conclusions. Or, if that isn't practical, he might at least have indicated how many people he tested and a little something about their diversity. As it is, we are left assuming that, like many university-based social scientists, he got most of his volunteers from the student population. I think that might be relevant, since the tests were mostly to determine levels of honesty or propensity to cheat in some way. Basing conclusions about honesty on a young population that is possibly still forming their personal values might not be indicative of the population in general.

If you can cast your doubts aside, you will probably find The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty absorbing and thought-provoking, and certainly entertaining. For instance, Ariely finds that the pharmaceutical industry has trained its sales personnel to use psychology to maximize sales, to great effect. Doctors have as little sales-resistance as the rest of us, unfortunately. This is troubling in terms of getting the appropriate care as well as affecting the cost of our care. And his conclusion that we lie more to ourselves than to others is hard to dispute.

I found a couple of Ariely's non-data-based examples problematic. In one, he quotes Picasso as having said "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." Picasso is not known to have said that, although T.S. Eliot may have said something like it. But more important, Eliot (or Picasso) never intended to imply that great artists (poets, musicians, whatever) steal. The quotation from Eliot is adapted from Shakespeare and is more in the vein of saying that great artists take old ideas and make them their own by applying their unique brand of creativity.

Later, Ariely makes a case for how people can be influenced by the behavior of people around them. He says that in medieval times some sufferers of St. Vitus' dance would start convulsing and others would join them, in a form of mass hysteria. I seemed to recall that one cause of such convulsions was eating tainted grain, so I looked it up. I found that ergotism (the grain disease) was one possible cause of muscle spasms, but that historians and doctors now believe the convulsions of St. Vitus' dance were caused by rheumatic fever. Some people do think that mass hysteria was the cause, but there is so much disagreement and doubt, that I think Ariely might have found a better example to make his point.

The two examples here are not vital to Ariely's case, but unfortunately, when a reader begins to question the small facts, it follows that they also question the larger statements the author is making.
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on 4 July 2016
Excellent book - as always Dan Arieli doesn't disappoint
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on 14 November 2016
Can get enough of this guy. Very interesting stuff
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VINE VOICEon 6 July 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having read Dan Ariel's previous two books (Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality) it followed that his latest book would be in a very similar vein and be just as enjoyable.

The book gives some very interesting theories that I'd not previously considered but have found myself citing on more than one occasion to friends/colleagues in the days since I finished reading it. Examples are how people buying counterfeit goods devalue others' perception of the value/status the real thing holds, how it is human nature to try and justify our own dishonesty in order to keep believing our morals are intact and how dishonesty is contagious - if one person is observed to be "getting away with it" then before long more and more people join in (which partly explains the state of the country these days!). Most people, it would appear, are dishonest if they can get away with it, but only by what they perceive as a small degree.

Ariely's experiments in what he calls social economics tend to use university students as participants, but I would be interested to see how results might differ if groups were regularly expanded beyond this. A lot of the experiments used Ariely's matrix test and got a little repetitive in places, but nonetheless, this is a book that's very easy to read, holds the reader's interest and manages to be both entertaining and insightful.
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on 8 April 2016
An insight into human nature.
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on 16 January 2017
Fantastic Book
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on 6 September 2015
I enjoyed the first few chapters but as the book progressed i realised it was focusing more and more on psychology tests that the author had performed. Great if you like that sort of thing. I found it a little boring.
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on 29 July 2012
Another very enjoyable book from Dan Ariely. It made it easy to understand why people behave in a certain way and trick themselves into thinking that it's correct. Be (dis)honest to yourself and buy this book.
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on 31 March 2013
I came to this book via a presentation on RSA vision which I find very interesting. Being keen to learn more I bought the book. Did I learn more? A little, but this book didn't hold my attention to well.
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on 7 March 2015
Excellent book, which really makes you think about the motivation and behaviour of people at work. I use the video short for the occasional presentation, which always goes down well.
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