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The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves Hardcover – June 5, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Ariely raises the bar for everyone. In the increasingly crowded field of popular cognitive science and behavioral economics, he writes with an unusual combination of verve and sagacity.” (Washington Post)

“I thought [Ariely’s] book was an outstanding encapsulation of the good hearted and easygoing moral climate of the age.” (David Brooks, the New York Times)

“The best-selling author’s creativity is evident throughout. . . . A lively tour through the impulses that cause many of us to cheat, the book offers especially keen insights into the ways in which we cut corners while still thinking of ourselves as moral people.” (

“Captivating and astute. . . . In his characteristic spry, cheerful style, Ariely delves deep into the conundrum of human (dis)honesty in the hopes of discovering ways to help us control our behavior and improve our outcomes.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Dan Ariely ingeniously and delightfully teases out how people balance truthfulness with cheating to create a reality out of wishful-blindness reality. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of your own personal ethics—and those of everybody you know.” (Mehmet Oz, MD; Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University and host of The Dr. Oz Show)

“Anyone who lies should read this book. And those who claim not to tell lies are liars. So they sould read this book too. This is a fascinating, learned, and funny book that will make you a better person.” (A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically and Drop Dead Healthy)

“I was shocked at how prevalent mild cheating was and how much more harmful it can be, cumulatively, compared to outright fraud. This is Dan Ariely’s most interesting and most useful book.” (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan)

“Through a remarkable series of experiments, Ariely presents a convincing case. . . . Required reading for politicians and Wall Street executives.” (Booklist)

From the Back Cover

The New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality returns with thought-provoking work to challenge our preconceptions about dishonesty and urge us to take an honest look at ourselves.

  • Does the chance of getting caught affect how likely we are to cheat?
  • How do companies pave the way for dishonesty?
  • Does collaboration make us more honest or less so?
  • Does religion improve our honesty?

Most of us think of ourselves as honest, but, in fact, we all cheat. From Washington to Wall Street, the classroom to the workplace, unethical behavior is everywhere. None of us is immune, whether it's the white lie to head off trouble or padding our expense reports. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, award-winning, bestselling author Dan Ariely turns his unique insight and innovative research to the question of dishonesty.

Generally, we assume that cheating, like most other decisions, is based on a rational cost-benefit analysis. But Ariely argues, and then demonstrates, that it's actually the irrational forces that we don't take into account that often determine whether we behave ethically or not. For every Enron or political bribe, there are countless puffed résumés, hidden commissions, and knockoff purses. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Ariely shows why some things are easier to lie about; how getting caught matters less than we think; and how business practices pave the way for unethical behavior, both intentionally and unintentionally. Ariely explores how unethical behavior works in the personal, professional, and political worlds, and how it affects all of us, even as we think of ourselves as having high moral standards.

But all is not lost. Ariely also identifies what keeps us honest, pointing the way for achieving higher ethics in our everyday lives. With compelling personal and academic findings, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty will change the way we see ourselves, our actions, and others.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062183591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062183590
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (282 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Ariely is the James B Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University.

Dan publishes widely in the leading scholarly journals in economics, psychology, and business. His work has been featured in a variety of media including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Business 2.0, Scientific American, Science and CNN. He splits his time between Durham NC and the rest of the world

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

157 of 172 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. McDonald VINE VOICE on March 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dishonesty is not rational in the sense that you cannot control dishonesty by increasing the chances of getting caught or its penalties. Those remedies, which are the basis for much of our regulatory and enforcement policy do not control dishonesty. In the real world, according to this book, we all cheat a little, but not so much that it causes us to comprise our self-image or integrity. That is the principle finding of Dan Ariely's new book The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty. Overall this book represents a continuation of Ariely's other books. The book is an engaging, story oriented, insightful book that clearly illustrates how to evaluate dishonesty and all of its different permutations.

This book is good, but frankly it is not as good as Ariely's prior books. Predictably Irrational broke new ground in terms of the understanding behavioral economics. This book builds on that understanding. It repeats some of the same points and remains focused on the issue of dishonesty in all its forms. Fans of Ariely's books will enjoy this extension of his published body of knowledge. For people who are new to Ariely and behavioral economics I would strongly recommend starting with Predictably Irrational.


Ariely shares the studies, their design and evidence to support the conclusions around dishonesty. This makes the ideas and conclusions convincing and clear, as you understand their source.

Ariely tells stories that help build the context around the studies and their findings. This not only makes for an entertaining and engaging read, but also an informative one.

The book is comprehensive looking at the issues of dishonest in different situations, contexts and settings.
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65 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Finding a unique narrative angle when a book by the de-facto creator of the behavioral psychology field - Thinking, Fast and Slow is recently published is not an easy task. However, Ariely picks up from where he left off in his previous works - Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic. This time the focus is on understanding behaviors related to (dis)honesty. While the framing that honesty is mostly a choice between benefit from cheating ("economic motivation") and psychological motivation may seem too simplistic in its assumption, Ariely provides interesting assertions and arguments to explore what kinds of triggers tend to increase or decrease honesty and what triggers tend to be neutral.

Ariely sets the stage by pointing out the limitations of the traditional Simple Model of Rational Crime that hinges on cost/benefit analyses and re-introducing the "fudge factor" from his earlier works. Using a mix of previously discussed experiments and a few new ones, he visits the role of honor codes, position of signatures, role of "tokens" to lead to an important insight central to this book that has potential implications for policy makers. This theme is further illustrated using golf as the context.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Cheating is widespread, if we are to believe the media reports that bombard us daily. For example, perpetrators of multi-billion dollar Ponzi schemes leave stunned retirees and working people destitute; crooked accountants cook the books for their corporate employers; and unethical teachers and principles inflate students' test scores. Professor of behavioral economics Dan Ariely weighs in on this topic in "The Honest Truth about Dishonesty." As he did in his previous works, Ariely designs a series of experiments to test various hypotheses. His goal is to learn more about why and under what conditions average men and women are likely to cheat. He also discusses the type of measures that could be implemented to cut down on deceitful behavior.

As it turns out, most men and women do not do a cost-benefit analysis and decide, "Since I can commit fraud and get away with it, I'll do whatever I want--embezzle, fudge figures, plagiarize, take things that aren't mine, etc." Those of us who have a conscience and want to feel good about ourselves will probably hesitate before committing serious transgressions. Dishonesty is complex and may be connected to such factors as our level of fatigue; our perception of who is watching us; whether we are alone or part of a group; how connected we feel to our deeds; and even how creative we are.

"The Honest Truth" is a relatively jargon-free, lighthearted, and humorous look at a serious subject. The good news is that we are not all hard-wired to do the wrong thing. However, since "most of us need little reminders to keep ourselves on the right path," it does not hurt to make changes (such as regulations to reduce conflicts of interest) that might reduce the temptation to rationalize our misbehavior.
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