On Nylon Socks and Confabulation

This week’s book learning is part of an 8 part series from The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. (Parts 1, 2)

After having understood our tendency to cheat ‘just a little bit’ when given the chance, we left last week with the question – How does the cheating process work in our heads? As a first step in that direction, we’ll explore confabulation.

Two researchers, Richard Nisbet and Tim Wilson, set up camp at their local mall. They arranged 4 pairs of nylon stockings on a table and asked women shoppers which they liked best.

By and large, the shoppers preferred the pair on the far right. When asked for a reason, some said they liked the colour, others said they liked material, and the rest pointed to texture or quality. This preference was interesting considering all 4 were identical.

So, Nisbet and Wilson repeated the same experiment with night gowns. The result – same. Not one cited the placement of the items as a possible reason.

Even when they told the participants that they were actually identical, the participants denied it.

The big learning here is that we don’t always know why we do what we do. The obscurity of our real motivations doesn’t stop us from creating logical explanations or confabulations.

Sketch by EB

Confabulation leads us to a very interesting point in our study on dishonesty. If we manufacture “logical” motivations every once in a while, does our creativity come into play? Taking it a step further, what is the relationship between creativity and dishonesty?

All will be revealed in part 4..

Happy weekend everyone!