A professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University, Ariely is the author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic, both New York Times bestsellers. Ariely’s new book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, explores some of the surprising reasons we lie to each other, and ourselves. Raised in Israel, Ariely holds Ph.D.s in both business administration and psychology. Wired senior editor Joanna Pearlstein spoke with Ariely as part of the Live Talks Business Forums series at the City Club of Los Angeles.
Wired: One of the key ideas in your book is that in order to combat dishonesty, we should understand the reasons people lie and cheat. Break it down for us: Why are we dishonest?
Dan Ariely: If you’re a fan of a sports team, it’s easy to see a call against your team as the referee being evil or stupid. You need to have a motivation to see reality in a certain way. The second thing you need is flexible rules. If the rules are incredibly strict, you can’t bend them in any way. But if the rules are slightly grey, there’s a zone in which you can cheat. And finally, you need a way to rationalize your actions for yourself.
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