Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Report: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

General Overview

Dan Ariely discusses through his book how we, as human beings, are all liars and at different points in our lives, are also cheaters. He makes people look at themselves from within and ask the question, 'Can you still feel good about yourself if you radiate a little dishonesty?' It is almost to the point of testing the limits within your conscious. Ariely conducted research experiments to study the questions we have, like this one, about dishonesty as a whole. Not only does he look at dishonesty within yourself, but within major corporations, little acts people perform everyday, as well as looking at the preconceptions people are exposed to about the lying, cheating and not being truthful. Throughout the book, Ariely discusses why people look at dishonesty in certain situations as beneficial, and the simple reasons as to why they are able to get away with it. It is not the consequences people are thinking about most of the times, but the unconscious forces driven to perform these little acts. Do the benefits outweigh the potential punishments? The author gave us different forces that shape dishonesty and given explanations on how they effect our behaviors. All in all, the way in which people are able to trick themselves into maintaining their conscious and self-identity, despite all the dishonesty in their lives, is what is highly focused upon.

Favorite Part

The part of the book that intrigued me the most was the study on pathological liars. I know very very pathological liars in my life, but the ones I do encounter, I always wonder what goes on through their brains. Do they know that I know that they're lying? Do they care? Obviously not if they keep on doing it, or is it that they are unaware that they are? Questions like these have always pegged my mind when it comes to this topic. Ariely has experimented with pathological liars to show that our brain is made of gray matter, which is consisted of thinking and processing, as well as white matter which involves creativity. The overall finding was that liars have more white matter than gray matter. I am intrigued by this data because I wonder if it does in fact correlate between liars and the controls of the experiment. It is said that white matter is connected to creativity. the only thing I can think of is that liars' brains our wired to creatively cheat and lie, and they also have a difficult time in processing moral dilemmas which causes them to lie. As the lectures pointed put, self-control is not an issue of willpower, but an issue of conflicting outcomes. It may be that liars are not able to distinguish between outcomes an lack that self-control, so as a result, they panic and lie. I am very interested to see more experiments done on liars because I think we still have so much to learn.


A good portion of the lectures was based around rewards and reinforcers. It is the discussion around the question of what effects our behavior and what will increase or decrease the likelihood of doing that behavior again in the future? If something good happens because of a specific action, we are most likely going to do that again. the opposite happens if we are punished. It is the punishments, or the likelihood of punishments, that Ariely studies. He studies whether or not the benefits of completing an action such as cheating on a test will outweigh the potential punishments of being caught and reprimanded. People want to feel good about themselves and think they are honest people. If they can succeed in lying here and there, where they are rewarded with things such as a good grade on a test, than they can still see themselves as good people.



This link here will bring you to about a 30 minute lecture or talk, that Dan Ariely speaks about his book. If you are interested in learning more about the concepts of the book and about his psychological ideas about cheating and lying and dishonesty, this is a great video to watch. He explains in further detail about what he presented in his writing and research experiments. the picture below gives a general visual outline of Ariely's forces that shape dishonesty.



Everyone lies and everyone cheats. I believe that is true and if it is not true, than a person is simply perfect. Nobody is perfect in my eyes. I believe that this book has opened my eyes more to how people are able to live with themselves after they lie or cheat. Do people feel guilty about it? I think what is most interesting is those people who get caught cheating or lying and continue to do so. They feel no guilt or feel bad, and yet they still see themselves as good. Since everyone does it, does that make you a bad person? You are simply going along with everyone else. I think that is what is the most scary. In today's world, it is hard to distinguish between facts and lies. You may think you know a person, when they could be living on lies that you perceive as truths. The worst part may be is that when you are living a lie for such a long time, your brain will believe it is actually true as time progresses.