Summary of The Context of Our Character, Part 1
In this chapter, Dan Ariely explores why people are dishonest and what factors this. Ariely notes that there are two types of dishonesty, the first being the explicit type, where the perpetrators consider every aspect of their crime and acknowledge that what they are engaging in, is dishonest behaviour. The second type is that which is exerted by people who consider themselves as honest; this type is where people do not register that taking one pen from a host of pens is also being honest, it is those who cheat just a little bit.
Ariely and some colleagues conduct a few experiments- three of which he writes about. In the first experiment, there are four groups who take a fifteen minute general knowledge test, for each correct answer at the end they get ten cents. The first group has no chance to cheat and the fourth has all the opportunity to cheat. Groups two and three have an opportunity to cheat just not as much as four. The findings here are that people will cheat when they can but they will not cheat so much as to make it evident that they did cheat. The author quotes Adam Smith to explain why “honest” people cheat only a little bit. The findings were that people are honest only when it suits them but they also have the desire to please others. Since honesty is a moral standard of society they will only be dishonest a little bit to further their interests while still pleasing society.
Ariely went on to find ways to eradicate this dishonestly. He quotes William A. Niskanen who notes that laws do not stop dishonestly but rather they encourage individuals to find loopholes instead. This is based on observing no change in the behaviour of businessmen after the passing of The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Ariely and his team took to the next experiment where they observe three groups taking a math test. They ask one group to recall ten books they read in school then take the test. They ask the second group to write...