Difficulty: 4/10 (Light-Moderate)
Genre: Behavioral Economics
Main Idea: Dishonesty has a huge role in our lives, that sometimes we are not even aware of.
Recommended For: Anyone interested in better understanding dishonesty’s impact on oneself and on others, and how to decrease it. Or just anyone looking for a pretty quick, entertaining read.
The Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC)
The previously accept notion of cheating comes from economist, and Nobel laureate, Gary Becker, who suggested that people commit crimes based on a rational analysis of each situation. If the cost (the punishment) of a dishonest act exceeded the benefit, then people would not do the deed. It’s a simple risk vs. reward scenario, which all made sense until Dan Ariely addressed the fact that humans have a, for lack of a better word, human aspect to them.
The Human Aspect of Cheating
When it comes to cheating, humans often find themselves in a conundrum. They want more money, prestige, and notoriety that they could gain from cheating, but they also want to be able to view themselves as good, honest people. But humans are smart, and we’ve solved this problem.
The Fudge Factor
The fudge factor is how we rationalize a dishonest act to transform it into something that our self image can accept. For example, in one study, Dan snuck into MIT dorms and stocked the communal refrigerators with soda and a plate of one dollar bills. When he came back to check, none of the bills were missing but all of the sodas were. Ironically, people were eager to take a soda but refused to take a dollar bill that could be used to buy a soda from the vending machine in the room. The two items were essentially the same thing. The theory that this explains is that the further we can remove ourselves from strait cash, the more likely we are to be dishonest. This is more than a cost benefit analysis since taking the money directly makes us feel dirtier.
Willpower is a Muscle
Imagine yourself after a tough, long day. Your whole body feels tired. We’ve all been there. What do you decide to have for dinner? Take out. The book talks about studies where researchers try to mimic this tired brain effect on people and record the outcomes. And as you can guess, the research proves what you already know. One group of people was asked to remember a 2 digit number, walk down the hall, and tell it to another person. Along the way, they ran into someone who told them after the study they would be treated to their choice of chocolate cake or a fruit salad. Another group did the same thing but had to remember a seven digit number. The seven digit group was much more likely to succumb to the chocolate cake.
So Many Cheating Studies
The book contains so many interesting studies on dishonesty. You will learn how a person’s creativity and intelligence affect their dishonest, how watching others act dishonestly affects how you act, how your cultural cues affect dishonesty, how being mental depleted affects honesty, how you can altruistically act dishonest, and how supervision, signing a pledge, or signing your name might make you more honest. If you want to learn about how you may be lying to yourself, how to spot factors that increase dishonesty in a person, or how to establish conditions that promote honesty, this book is for you.
“Psychological studies show that we quickly and easily start believing whatever comes out of our own mouths, even when the original reason for expressing the opinion is no longer relevant”
“Each of the decisions we make to avoid temptation takes some degree of effort (like lifting a weight once), and we exhaust our willpower by using it over and over (like lifting a weight over and over). This means that after a long day of saying “no” to various and sundry temptations, our capacity for resisting them diminishes.”
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