liar! liar! pants on fire!

I’ve started reading The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist.

I’m only a chapter or so into the book, but I’m very intrigued by some of the studies that Ariely describes.  Some say that behavioral economists are “annoying” (I won’t say who used this word) because they talk as if they’ve figured out the human condition (and I guess sometimes they do), but I find Ariely’s work interesting – at the least, it gives us something to think about when we consider how dishonesty works in our lives.

You can listen to a recent episode of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR that featured Ariely and his book – it’s a great introduction to the book and the issues he raises.

Here’s Ariely on TED in which he talks about “Our buggy moral code”:

Here’s another one from Ariely on “irrational behavior”:

So – won’t you read The Honest Truth About Dishonesty with me so we can talk about honesty and dishonesty?


the hoover institute and a high school senior agree…

The Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, and Peace  (Stanford University) published this wonderful article, “The Death of Honesty” by William Damon.  The article is an excellent discussion of why honesty is actually important in human society.  For instance:

When we no longer assume that those who communicate with us are at least trying to tell the truth, we give up on them as trustworthy persons and deal with them only in a strictly instrumental manner. The bounds of mutual moral obligation dissolve, and the laws of the jungle reemerge.

Then, a student, Zachary Slayback, wrote an article called “Instilling Honesty” in response to Damon’s article.  He says he wrote an article for his school paper discussing this subject matter.

Officials at the school did not believe that the subject was one for publication and did not submit the article. My rebuttal is as follows: how can we wish to correct a problem if we refuse to admit that it is a problem?

I did my homework on Zachary and while he and I may not be on the same political spectrum, we very much agree on one thing: The need for schools to be consistent, coherent, and transparent (Damon’s words) when it comes to dealing with dishonesty.  (I do acknowledge that I have not seen the actual article that Zachary wrote for the school paper, and so I don’t have all the information, of course.)

Zachary’s article in Daily American: Somerset County Newspaper, however, is a good one.  If you are a student, I hope you will really hear what he is saying. If you are faculty, I hope you will really hear what he is saying and encourage your students to read his article (and Damon’s article).

As long as there are young people like Zachary on this issue of honesty, I am hopeful for our country.