Posts Tagged ‘Dan Ariely’

What keeps people honest (or not)

September 23, 2012

In this RSA Animate presentation, Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, tells what experimental psychology shows about what keeps people honest.  Few people are completely honest, few people are completely dishonest, most people rationalize being slightly dishonest.  But when people remind themselves of their moral code, such as by reading the Ten Commandments, they become more honest.  This works for atheists as well as believers.

One interesting finding was the effect of confession, as in the Catholic church.  Ariely found that once people deviate from their moral code, the easier it becomes to deviate from it more and more.  Confession brings you back to the initial state of moral purity.

Click on RSA Animate for more like this.

Click on Dan Ariely Home Page for more from the author of Predictably Irrational.

Hat tip to The Dish.

The psychology of honesty

July 1, 2012

Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about studies he and some other professors did on the subject of honesty.

They found that most people are mostly honest most of the time, but can be tempted to be a little bit dishonest depending on the risks, the rewards and what everybody else is doing.  No surprises there.  What I did find surprising was the following.

We took a group of 450 participants, split them into two groups and set them loose on our usual matrix task.  We asked half of them to recall the Ten Commandments and the other half to recall 10 books that they had read in high school.  Among the group who recalled the 10 books, we saw the typical widespread but moderate cheating.  But in the group that was asked to recall the Ten Commandments, we observed no cheating whatsoever.  We reran the experiment, reminding students of their schools’ honor codes instead of the Ten Commandments, and we got the same result.

We even reran the experiment on a group of self-declared atheists, asking them to swear on a Bible, and got the same no-cheating results yet again.

This experiment has obvious implications for the real world. While ethics lectures and training seem to have little to no effect on people, reminders of morality—right at the point where people are making a decision—appear to have an outsize effect on behavior.

Click on Why People Lie for the whole article.