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How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves

by Dan Ariely

Pub Date: June 5th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-218359-0
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Ariely (Psychology/Psychology and Behavioral Economics/Duke Univ.; The Upside of Irrationality, 2010, etc.) explores how honest we are, how honest we think we are and every white lie in the middle.

 Conventional wisdom suggests that the greatest concentration of dishonest Americans can be found in the Washington, D.C., area. While it's true that our leaders provide us with egregious examples of dishonesty, a more nuanced look at how we define the concept reveals that our moral compasses may be less dependable than we would like to believe. Ariely's prior books regarding irrationality flow into his research around what motivates people's dishonesty. He argues against the idea that deciding whether or not to cheat is fueled by a cost/benefit analysis. He also finds that the notion of the decision-making process being largely internal is also inaccurate and shares examples of corporate culture's enabling of dishonesty. It's far simpler for the media to identify the Kenneth Lay in the story than to explain how hundreds of employees—unlikely to all be maliciously and intentionally undermining the financial security of thousands of people—could participate in an organizational structure that rewards the bending of the rules. Lawyers round up on billable hours, and those who stick to an honest assessment of how much they work are culled from the firm come evaluation time. Ariely also argues convincingly that society’s move toward a cashless society is lessening the moral impact when a few people fudge the numbers slightly—it eventually adds up to billions of dollars in losses. The author dissects dishonesty in schools, relationships and workplaces and examines institutional and cultural safeguards and their levels of effectiveness.

Ariely writes in a conversational tone one might associate with a popular teacher, providing readers with a working knowledge of what shapes our ethics—or lack thereof.