Knowing Dishonesty among You


Before Ramadhan I made bucket list - several things I must do before I throw it into basket. I listed target for worship such as reciting holy-quran tree times, having dhuha and tahajjud prayer every day and so on. I also made some targets for my personal development which one of them is reading English-scientific book. That is The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty: How we lie to everyone, especially ourselves, by Dan Ariely.

I don’t actually love to read non fiction book in my spare time. But Dan Ariely can Change my mind and convince me that science is not as boring as I thought when Rizalul* recommended it to me a month before. I thought I can’t stay more than five minutes to read such as academic reading in this holiday but truly I can’t put it down when started reading. There were many fascinating facts I learned. And it started with a question, what do we know about the causes of dishonesty?

In rational economics, the prevailing notion of cheating argues that people based on a rational analysis of each situation which known as SMORC (Simple Model of Rational Crimes) is born by Gery Becker, a Nobel Laureate. He says that dishonesty is carried based on  calculation of cost and benefit. Someone commit to crime if he thinks that he will earn money or another advantage more than the possibility of getting caught and  the punishment paid after. However, how if the world is not as simple as it and there are still many forces causes people to be dishonest? This book attempts to figure out the answer.

There are about ten chapters explaining about unique factor origins people to behave dishonestly. Each cause is approved by scientific experiment in behavior lab. In every chapter, Dan Ariely gives related example that near with our life such as movie, news, or daily activity. For example, People tend to cheat when facing dishonest chance based on non-monetary value. That’s why a thief prefer to steal a can of Coca-Cola rather than a worth amount of money located in the same refrigerator. He will feel more sinfully guilty if he takes the money. Fudge factor theory describe that people has their own degree on being dishonest.

In another circumstance, cheating becomes easier when there are several steps or distance separate us a dishonest act. In playing marble, for instance, to most people it seems more acceptable to slightly move a marble with one’s foot than to reposition it with one’s hand. Furthermore, cheating sometimes happens because we are tired or hunger. Instead of being ethical, someone who is exhausted only wants to get the thing done even in the dishonest way. However, in particular situation, dishonesty is good for us. This book tells us that usually doctors or dentists say that there will be no pain (that actually there is) when they give a treatment to motivate the patient.

This book realizes me that am surrounded with much lies. It is easy for me to find them. But still we can take an action to reduce incidence of such dishonest behavior. Ariely shows that small reminders of basic moral standards may force people to be more ethical. It can be form as poster attached on the right place, honor code, declaration of professional principle, or signing a pledge (more effective at the top of document). It is also good for us to avoid a transaction that may causes conflict of interest. The more trust we give to a person we needed based on his profession, the more we tend to be trapped in unethical behavior we don’t recognize.

Ariely elaborates the behavior of cheater based on economic view. Almost all the contents of The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty are from experimental research conducted by him and his academic partner. He also used several psychology and economics theory for the literature review. However he still keeps language simple and easy to understand even for non-academician. If you want to be aware of lies among you and avoid someone who wants to cheat, read this book!


*Rizalul used the book as based reference for his paper accomplished as requirement for Outstanding Student Competition of FEUI (Mahasiswa Berprestasi FEUI) 2014 and he won the third winner.


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