Dan Ariely Talks Creativity and Dishonesty

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“Lots of us are able to cheat a little bit and still think of ourselves as honest people.”

Dan Ariely is a professor of behavior economics at Duke University. His latest book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, explains how creativity makes us better liars—even to ourselves.

“Dishonesty is all about the small acts we can take and then think, no, this not real cheating. So if you think that the main mechanism is rationalization, then what you come up with, and that’s what we find, is that we’re basically trying to balance feeling good about ourselves. On the one hand we get some satisfaction, some utility from thinking of ourselves as honest, moral, wonderful people. On the other hand we try to benefit from cheating.

“So rationalization is what we allows you to live with some cheating and not pay a cost in terms of your own view of yourself.

“What kind of people would be able to rationalize better than other people? Better storytellers, right? Creative people, right? Because if you’re creative, you find more ways to cheat and still yourself a story about why this is okay.”

Ingrid Wickelgren and Steve Mirsky

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

[You can hear Ingrid Wickelgren's full interview of Dan Ariely on the December 25th edition of the Science Talk podcast. Just go to www.scientificamerican.com/podcast and click on Science Talk.]

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