Thursday, June 06, 2013

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

This is an important book. How honest do you think you are? Christians are probably aware that, 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' but most of us, guilty hands-up here, feel we are not as bad as other people. Another parable springs to mind. Dan Ariely and a load of his compatriots and fellow-researchers set out to test the whole idea of honesty. In what situations do people become less honest?
His basic test as control involved a survey of people of similar ability doing a multiple-choice test. Then futher experiments involved scripts being marked by other test-sitters, self-marking and self-marking followed by destruction of the script.
Guess what? Cheating, or should we say, over-reporting, took place increasingly.
He goes on to show that temptation is harder to resist the more temptation you have resisted, that the idea of being watched (even down to a picture of eyes on a warning note), increases honesty, that we are more likely to cheat if we think someone we trust has cheated and that the better we are at devising a narrative to explain our behaviour the more likely we are to cheat. Yes folks, creative peple lie and cheat more because they end up believing their own tales. And even if we don't personally benefit we are likely to bend the rules if we think someone deserving will benefit. (I recall the turnstyle operator at a certain football club in the lower leagues allowing both my sons to go through for the price of one because he thought away supporters were being stung.)
Our dishonesty is not as rational as we think it is. '...there are rational forces that we think drive our dishonest behaviour - but don't. And there are irrational forces that we don't think drive our dishonest behaviour - but do.' The amount of money to be gained and the probability of being caught are seemingly neutral forces. They do not shape our dishonesty at all.
Honesty needs to be encouraged, reminders need to be issued and the wise employer will be trusting but leave people in no doubt that they will be caught if they steal.
Oh, and if you have some identical items for sale but for some reason you want to sell one batch before the others (say they are nearer their use-by date), place the ones you want to sell first on the right of the display.
Published by Harper Collins 2012.

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