- 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
- Average Customer Review: 319 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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“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.” (Time.com)
“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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Ariely’s “The Honest Truth about Dishonesty” is engagingly written, interesting, informative, entertaining but ultimately tremendously frustrating. Ariely attempts to present a systematic demonstration of how common cheating is and what some of the situational factors are which increase or decrease its prevalence. His points are interesting but largely mundane. In sharp contrast to his experimental methods and findings, Ariely’s anecdotes (e.g., his Eurorail ticket escapade) and his observational studies (e.g., Coke in the refrigerator, generous snack machine) are more interesting, more substantive and more thought-provoking and nuanced.
Unfortunately, there are major systemic flaws in the experimental methods Ariely uses to make his rather non-controversial main point: Some people cheat some of the time.
My fundamental frustration is that, like many experiments in behavioral economics and psychology, the meanings of the results of the experiments are open to multiple interpretations but Ariely emphasizes the ones that support his narrative. He continually implicitly attributes motives and thought processes to his subjects. We never hear from the subjects as to their interpretation of the situations and their explanations as to why they decided to cheat or not to cheat. This is a very fundamental methodological and epistemological problem with this kind of experiment. (Another reviewer pointed to Sissela Bok’s book Lying and in particular Chapter 13 on deception in social science research. Here I am focused not so much on the morality of deception, but the limits such deception places on our ability to understand the phenomena being examined)
Second, Ariely’s descriptions of his experiments are grossly inadequate. For example, he does not report the actual numbers of individuals in the myriad of experiments who did not cheat and the degree to which they actually cheated. He reports the averages of the groups exposed to a particular experimental condition. As far as I am concerned, this is highly problematic to the point of dishonesty. What makes it worse is that he does not report all the referenced experiments in the footnotes or the bibliography thereby making it very difficult to find the actual numbers for the experiments. I kept looking for a simple number – the percentage of people who actually cheated. He does not report this number and it is infuriating because you are left to conclude that everybody cheats in the experiments to some degree and this is simply and dramatically untrue. (The write up of at least some of the experiments in journal articles is also sloppy.) In trying to find Ariely-related experiments where researchers actually talked to people as people, I found a paper by one of his major collaborators, Prof. Francesca Gino, titled “Dishonest Deed, Clear Conscience”. The title suggests that some debriefing took place. Actually there was no debriefing of subjects but it did report an experiment where the researchers matched individuals with their answer sheets so that they could determine who cheated and by how much and, more importantly, who did not. It turns out that when simply given the opportunity and an incentive to cheat 43% of subjects DID NOT CHEAT. When shown an honor code, 68% DID NOT CHEAT. When asked to read and sign an honor code, only one subject out of 22 cheated, i.e., 95% DID NOT CHEAT! In my opinion, these numbers put Ariely’s results in a completely different light and require him to discuss in more detail what it is that make some people cheat and others not cheat. This is at the root of my frustration with the experimental methodology he uses.
Third, there is the obvious philosophical and ethical question raised by Bok as to why one would trust somebody who continuously uses deception and lies to generate “truth”. Ariely is well aware of this conundrum and makes a joke of it in his closing comment in Chapter 7. However, acknowledging the conundrum does not resolve the conundrum. The issue of deception in social science research is widely recognized but continues and is now probably more pervasive than ever. Ariely should consider alternative more honest means of exploring honesty and dishonesty. In short, why should we trust Ariely?
In sum, Ariely’s book fails to live up to its title. Even on its own narrow terms, it hardly amounts to the truth about dishonesty and he certainly does not show that “we lie to everyone, especially ourselves”. In fact, I would argue that Ariely, at a number of levels, is fundamentally dishonest in his representation of how widespread dishonesty is.
He writes like he speaks. This is a great exploration into humans and how they behave. EVERYBODY LIES.
First I want to emphasise the pleasant and relaxed style of the author, amusing and enjoyable. It really makes reading a pleasure.
I did not know the author, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out it is a scientific book (being a social scientist myself). The book takes you on an exciting experimental journey. Although not detailed, the epistemology of the experiments is sound.
In summary, it is a pleasant and amusing scientific book that enriches its reader, interesting science diguised in fun reading.
Thank you Dan!
The studies themselves shown in the book are interesting but are not quite diversified like the author's previous books. Maybe it's because the topic is not broad for discussion and testing as Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.
You can find the proofs to some of your belief about cheating here and hope it is a starting point for preventing cheating in society.