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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destroying the Myths of Rational Self Interest, 13 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone - Especially Ourselves (Kindle Edition)
I eagerly awaited my Kindle version of this book, having very much enjoyed the author's other works - especially "Predictably Irrational". This book is written in a very similar style. Self contained chapters look at different aspects of why we do things the way we do, filled with interesting personal anecdotes and descriptions of experiments conducted.

This is a popular science book, in that it does not provide you with all the data, sample sizes, statistical variations and other guff that would serve to confuse many readers, or at least turn interesting anecdotes into dry ones. Instead the author provides a link back to the academic papers he is describing in his endnotes, and I think that worked very well. Here was a book filled with plenty to interest any reader, but a means to verify the claims made by the more academically inclined.

The subject of the book is dishonesty and cheating, and Ariely manages to demonstrate some quite counterintuitive facts about our propensity to cheat, showing how effects such as social norms, effects of in-groups and out groups, supervision, and even recollection of moral principles all affect our behaviour. Interestingly he shows that even given the perfect opportunity to cheat to the maximum without consequences, nearly all of us opt to only cheat a little - and he proposes the mechanisms by which we mitigate our behaviour.

There are plenty of public policy implications from this work, as well as helpful guides to the reader as to how to control their own nature. I was struck, at times, by how many of these ideas to manage our own moral compass actually were not new at all. Instead, the research presented served to explain why things many people have discovered over the years are effective after all.

A real eye opener for me, however, was the demonstration that early intervention for minor misdemeanours was, in fact, much more important than intervention for later ones. Once it was stated, this idea seemed to me to be obvious, and yet I doubt I would have thought of it without the experiments that demonstrated the effect.

So all in all a very good and interesting read, filled with plenty of anecdotes, and experiments that seemed to cover a range of walks of life (from students to bankers or politicians) and nationalities (turns out that no nationality stands out when it comes to our propensity to cheat).

Thoroughly recommended. This and Ariely's other works should be required reading for anyone who holds to a view that humans always act in the name of their rational self interest. Ariely shows once and for all that we do not.
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