The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

I am a goody two-shoes. Growing up I rarely rebelled. I just never had that strong, innate desire to break or bend the rules. I never cheated, stole, or hit someone. I never drank or smoked anything illegal. It just wasn’t in my nature. Now, was I a perfect child? No. I definitely told little lies, got angry and hit inanimate objects, and stretched the truth from time to time, but all in all, I was a great kid.

In the last few books I have read, I have noticed an odd theme: lying. I’m not certain what has piqued my interest, but I am fascinated with our brains. It is amazing how little we know about our brains and how much we are fooled by our own brains. Three people could be in a room, experience the same situation yet recall the situation completely different than their peers. And if you add in the torment of time, your recall can completely contradict your prior recollection.

In this book, Ariely addresses dishonesty, or to say it simply: cheating. Why do we cheat? When do we cheat? What motivates to cheat? What motivates to be honest? Does a threat of punishment stop us? Do rationally consider a list of pros and cons before we cheat or don’t cheat?

Ariely runs numerous lab experiments to test different cheating scenarios with many surprising results. My one critique of this very interesting book is the overuse of lab experiments. Measuring cheating in the world in real-time is difficult, and his lab experiments are intelligently performed. However, my brain does not connect with lab experiments to real-world scenarios. The experiments can definitely be windows of truth, but an artificial setting with mostly (poor) college students appear a bit imbalanced to me.

This book is worth the read, but just not my favorite.