Free Beer: The Truth About Dishonesty
January 12, 2013 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Are you more honest than a banker? Under what circumstances would you lie, or cheat, and what effect does your deception have on society at large? Dan Ariely, bestselling author and professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University visits the RSA to examine the mechanisms at work behind dishonest behaviour, and the implications this has for all aspects of our social and political lives. (28:46)
RSA Animation of excerpts of this lecture and related ones: The Truth About Dishonesty (11:08)
posted by Blasdelb (15 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Dan Ariely previously on metafilter:
Chocolate cake and taxes
Why Online Dating Is So Unsatisfying
posted by Blasdelb at 6:23 AM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Usable anecdotes from those experiments. Wow I didn't know about RSA before. If the talk by Ariely is representative of the quality, that channel will hold my interest for quite a while.
posted by surplus at 7:49 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nice little post ;)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:59 AM on January 12, 2013

"Nice little post ;)"

Incidentally, surplus isn't kidding. There is a lot of awesome shit there to get lost in clicking on the related links to the right where the number of views is a poor indicator of quality, especially in the raw unanimated lectures, but if you want it all organized you have to do it yourself.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:10 AM on January 12, 2013

In case you, like me, keep wondering what "The RSA" is: "...Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce... an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world."
posted by ardgedee at 8:34 AM on January 12, 2013

In case you, like me, keep wondering what "The RSA" is...

Every time I see one of these posts or a link to one of their videos, I immediately think RSA the public-key cryptography algorithm or the company that used to own the patent on RSA and sells security products and services.

It's especially confusing when the topic of the talk is about dishonesty, truth and social implications.
posted by formless at 1:27 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love how the first real world example is about stealing office supplies. I have never known anybody in my life who didn't think office supplies were free for the taking. If you order office supplies you never order a closet full at the end of August right when school starts up again.
posted by bukvich at 1:41 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting - I find the theory parts very interesting but this er....... sort of pat attempt at synergy or whatever, i'm travelling back to tony hart, rolf harris or bob ross territory and I think there's more meaningful uses of animation than that - there was a slavo zizek one where they could have portrayed him sniffing cocaine off a supermodel while he talked - but sadly didn't.
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:41 PM on January 12, 2013

Free beer?
Here the RSA stands for the Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate you need before you can work in a bar. And, as we know, bars are a breeding ground for dishonesty, truth and social implications, very rarely free beer.
posted by Kerasia at 1:48 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most of this is just regurgitation of the work Ariely has been doing for years, but the stuff about the priests was new to me. I really like his work and I think he does stellar science, but I disagree with his worldview and therefore I find a lot of the directions of his work, his conclusions, and his recommendations to be completely off-base and incorrect.

Predictably Irrational, his first book, was highly interesting because he was just reporting on his experiments. But The Upside of Irrationality was a moralizing diatribe telling people how to use his scientific findings to push his personal morality on the world.

That comes across a bit in this talk. His whole talk is about "Everyone will cheat a little, we just need to find ways to reduce overall." But, he keeps using the perspective that cheating is an evil thing that evil people do - for example, the music pirate who is evil and even more so, foolish for not admitting their guilt. He also seems to be, in a sense, forgiving the bankers, while condemning those who would walk out of a restaurant without paying.

It's nothing "incorrect" that he's done, I just really, really dislike his moral stance on what is, in the end, a statistical distribution of behavior. It's as incorrect as buying 100 apples from a disreputable dealer, knowing that 50 worms live within the barrel of apples, and then blaming each individual apple for having worms in it, praising each apple that does not have worms in it, and trying to sell the apple farmer insecticide.
posted by rebent at 4:13 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

for example, the music pirate who is evil and even more so, foolish for not admitting their guilt. He also seems to be, in a sense, forgiving the bankers

I noticed that when I watched this a few months ago. The biases of his assumptions made his entire thesis suspect. He seems to have a very poor grasp of relative harm, or perhaps, worse, an inherently... dishonest agenda. I have no evidence for that, but I simply don't trust anyone with received establishment morality, anymore.
posted by clarknova at 8:04 PM on January 12, 2013

Big ups to the RSA channel though. It's worth all the time you'll spend watching it.
posted by clarknova at 8:05 PM on January 12, 2013

I think what this model fails to ask is what systems of individuals do. What happens when incentives and individual agency are more abstracted to societal scale? Beyond that there is an unexamined element to the problems in banking. If the systems most actively cheating are also engaged in actively denying any reforms to problematic incentives then you have a system of cheats incentivising cheating. Can a system with such momentum be reformed?

I still liked this talk. I have often wondered what we will do to maintain societal cohesion in a time when religions have declining influence.
posted by vicx at 8:06 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you want to investigate the social and economic implications of dishonest behavior, it's probably a good idea to pay a visit to the RZA, too.
posted by koeselitz at 8:31 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow. What a weird reaction to the piracy bit.
posted by jsturgill at 8:53 AM on January 14, 2013

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