On The License to Cheat

This week’s book learning is the final edition of an 8 part series from The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. (Parts 123456, 7)

The final set of ingenious experiments by the Dishonesty research team (including Nina Mazar who we interviewed on Realleaders.tv) involved 2 experiments to test a question – Do certain actions have a ‘halo effect’? i.e. do they enable us to cheat more? –

1. Buy “green” products: Students were first given an opportunity to buy green/environmentally friendly products. Following this, they were tested with matrix test with the shredder condition enabling them to cheat.

2. Exposed to “green” products: Here, students were tested on the matrices with a slight twist, the room was filled with green products.

The results?
– In the buy experiment, students who purchased green products were much more likely to cheat.
– In the exposed experiment, everyone was more honest!

Similar experiments have reinforced these results meaning we have a habit of treating good acts like “karma” which we can exchange for little bits of dishonesty. That’s why super markets have green products right when we start. We buy karma and then have fattening chocolates right at the end.

This may also explain why multi billionaires make irrational donations to charities and go on to cheat on the other end to make money..

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Sketch by EB

So what does this all mean? I think the conclusion here is that self awareness is critical to prevent dishonesty. We are culpable of cheating ourselves from time to time and the only way to prevent that from happening is to expose ourselves to good things and honest people (like green products).

We ought to also know that we are most culpable when we do something good. The only way to work around this is to make good habits habitual so doing good is “normal.”

I hope you enjoyed the series on Dishonesty. There are some interesting books coming up in future series. Stay tuned…