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The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone- Especially Ourselves [Hardcover]

Dan Ariely
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 28 2012

Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and the New York Times bestselling author of The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational, examines the contradictory forces that drive us to cheat and keep us honest, in this groundbreaking look at the way we behave: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.

From ticket-fixing in our police departments to test-score scandals in our schools, from our elected leaders’ extra-marital affairs to the Ponzi schemes undermining our economy, cheating and dishonesty are ubiquitous parts of our national news cycle—and inescapable parts of the human condition.

Drawing on original experiments and research, in the vein of Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, and Survival of the Sickest, Ariely reveals—honestly—what motivates these irrational, but entirely human, behaviors.


Frequently Bought Together

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone- Especially Ourselves + Predictably Irrational Revised And Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions + The Upside Of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic
Price For All Three: CDN$ 47.75


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Review

“Ariely raises the bar for everyone. In the increasingly crowded field of popular cognitive science and behavioral economics, he writes with an unusual combination of verve and sagacity.” (Washington Post)

“I thought [Ariely’s] book was an outstanding encapsulation of the good hearted and easygoing moral climate of the age.” (David Brooks, the New York Times)

“The best-selling author’s creativity is evident throughout. . . . A lively tour through the impulses that cause many of us to cheat, the book offers especially keen insights into the ways in which we cut corners while still thinking of ourselves as moral people.” (Time.com)

“Captivating and astute. . . . In his characteristic spry, cheerful style, Ariely delves deep into the conundrum of human (dis)honesty in the hopes of discovering ways to help us control our behavior and improve our outcomes.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Dan Ariely ingeniously and delightfully teases out how people balance truthfulness with cheating to create a reality out of wishful-blindness reality. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of your own personal ethics—and those of everybody you know.” (Mehmet Oz, MD; Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University and host of The Dr. Oz Show)

“Anyone who lies should read this book. And those who claim not to tell lies are liars. So they sould read this book too. This is a fascinating, learned, and funny book that will make you a better person.” (A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically and Drop Dead Healthy)

“I was shocked at how prevalent mild cheating was and how much more harmful it can be, cumulatively, compared to outright fraud. This is Dan Ariely’s most interesting and most useful book.” (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan)

“Through a remarkable series of experiments, Ariely presents a convincing case. . . . Required reading for politicians and Wall Street executives.” (Booklist)

From the Back Cover

The New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality returns with thought-provoking work to challenge our preconceptions about dishonesty and urge us to take an honest look at ourselves.

  • Does the chance of getting caught affect how likely we are to cheat?
  • How do companies pave the way for dishonesty?
  • Does collaboration make us more honest or less so?
  • Does religion improve our honesty?

Most of us think of ourselves as honest, but, in fact, we all cheat. From Washington to Wall Street, the classroom to the workplace, unethical behavior is everywhere. None of us is immune, whether it's the white lie to head off trouble or padding our expense reports. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, award-winning, bestselling author Dan Ariely turns his unique insight and innovative research to the question of dishonesty.

Generally, we assume that cheating, like most other decisions, is based on a rational cost-benefit analysis. But Ariely argues, and then demonstrates, that it's actually the irrational forces that we don't take into account that often determine whether we behave ethically or not. For every Enron or political bribe, there are countless puffed résumés, hidden commissions, and knockoff purses. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Ariely shows why some things are easier to lie about; how getting caught matters less than we think; and how business practices pave the way for unethical behavior, both intentionally and unintentionally. Ariely explores how unethical behavior works in the personal, professional, and political worlds, and how it affects all of us, even as we think of ourselves as having high moral standards.

But all is not lost. Ariely also identifies what keeps us honest, pointing the way for achieving higher ethics in our everyday lives. With compelling personal and academic findings, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty will change the way we see ourselves, our actions, and others.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book May 5 2014
By Audrey
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I would recommend this book to my friends. It is a good insight into what motivates people to cheat, steal , lie etc. and what deters people from being dishonest. I couldn't put it down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Facts Don't Lie Jan. 20 2014
By Rbt.
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well researched and documented. Written in a compelling style. His conclusion are worth considering. Leaders in educational institutions, government and business should read this, as well as the general public. Countries which do not curb widespread dishonesty, which becomes elevated over time in business and government eventually slide into serious corruption. Corruption robs the vulnerable of educational opportunities, medical care, etc because money is siphoned off by the powerful.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review June 25 2012
By A. D. Thibeault TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
*A full executive-style summary of this book is now available at newbooksinbrief dot wordpress dot com.

There is certainly no shortage of lying, cheating and corruption in our society today. At their worst, these phenomena do substantial damage to our communities and the people in them. Picking on the corporate world for just a moment, consider a few high-profile examples from the last decade: the scandals at Enron, WorldCom, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Haliburton, Kmart, Tyco, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and a host of banks in the financial crisis of 2008.

If you are a particularly pessimistic person, you may think that people are fundamentally self-interested, and will engage in dishonest and corrupt behaviour so long as the potential benefits of this behaviour outweigh the possibility of being caught multiplied by the punishment involved (known as the Simple Model of Rational Crime or SMORC). On the other hand, if you are a particularly optimistic person, you may think that the lying and cheating that we see in our society is largely the result of a few bad apples in the bunch.

Given that the way we attempt to curb cheating and corruption depends largely on which view we think is correct, we would do well if we could come up with a proper understanding of these tendencies, and under what circumstances they are either heightened or diminished. Over the past several years, the behavioral economist Dan Ariely, together with a few colleagues, has attempted to do just this--by way of bringing dishonesty into the science lab. Ariely reveals his findings in his new book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another enjoyable book by Dan Ariely July 2 2012
Format:Hardcover
It's easy to see the faults in others.

Dan Ariely writes about the irrational behaviours of our species in a wonderfully entertaining manner such that you understand it's not just 'others' who have faults, it's everyone - even you and I.

In "The Honest Truth About Dishonesty", Professor Ariely and his colleagues demonstrate what can impact or amplify the likelihood of humans acting in a less than honest manner.

The book doesn't guarantee to make us into honest people, but it does help us to recognize the situations where dishonesty is most likely to occur so that we can consider ourselves forewarned and act accordingly.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  225 reviews
139 of 153 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Honestly a good book, but not Ariely's best March 31 2012
By Mark P. McDonald - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Dishonesty is not rational in the sense that you cannot control dishonesty by increasing the chances of getting caught or its penalties. Those remedies, which are the basis for much of our regulatory and enforcement policy do not control dishonesty. In the real world, according to this book, we all cheat a little, but not so much that it causes us to comprise our self-image or integrity. That is the principle finding of Dan Ariely's new book The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty. Overall this book represents a continuation of Ariely's other books. The book is an engaging, story oriented, insightful book that clearly illustrates how to evaluate dishonesty and all of its different permutations.

This book is good, but frankly it is not as good as Ariely's prior books. Predictably Irrational broke new ground in terms of the understanding behavioral economics. This book builds on that understanding. It repeats some of the same points and remains focused on the issue of dishonesty in all its forms. Fans of Ariely's books will enjoy this extension of his published body of knowledge. For people who are new to Ariely and behavioral economics I would strongly recommend starting with Predictably Irrational.

Strengths

Ariely shares the studies, their design and evidence to support the conclusions around dishonesty. This makes the ideas and conclusions convincing and clear, as you understand their source.

Ariely tells stories that help build the context around the studies and their findings. This not only makes for an entertaining and engaging read, but also an informative one.

The book is comprehensive looking at the issues of dishonest in different situations, contexts and settings.

Challenges

The book repeats its central finding time after time and situation after situation. This gives you the indicator that the subject matter would be better represented as an article rather than trying to stretch it out to a book.

Some of the arguments and information presented in the book have been discussed in other books, including Ariely's prior books. Chapter 4 on why we blow it when we are tired is material that is also covered in Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. This is not surprising given the plethora of behavioral books, but it detracts from this book.

The book follows the same format of Ariely's other books. While this presents a clear and compelling book, it also leads to the impression that if you have read one Ariely book you have pretty much read every Ariely book.

Overall this book is endorsed but not strongly recommended for the challenges mentioned above. Fans or Ariely's book, like me, will enjoy reading it, but this is not the place to start for people new to Ariely or the subject of behavioral economics.
62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incrementally advancing our understanding of behaviors March 21 2012
By Sreeram Ramakrishnan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Finding a unique narrative angle when a book by the de-facto creator of the behavioral psychology field - Thinking, Fast and Slow is recently published is not an easy task. However, Ariely picks up from where he left off in his previous works - Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic. This time the focus is on understanding behaviors related to (dis)honesty. While the framing that honesty is mostly a choice between benefit from cheating ("economic motivation") and psychological motivation may seem too simplistic in its assumption, Ariely provides interesting assertions and arguments to explore what kinds of triggers tend to increase or decrease honesty and what triggers tend to be neutral.

Ariely sets the stage by pointing out the limitations of the traditional Simple Model of Rational Crime that hinges on cost/benefit analyses and re-introducing the "fudge factor" from his earlier works. Using a mix of previously discussed experiments and a few new ones, he visits the role of honor codes, position of signatures, role of "tokens" to lead to an important insight central to this book that has potential implications for policy makers. This theme is further illustrated using golf as the context. Furthermore, using familiar examples from healthcare, financial services, he also revisits cognitive dissonance and the impact of biased incentives. This section in particular is not particularly new and readers may be better served on the discussion of cognitive loads and temptations in a Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.
Discussions on the "slippery slope" - longer term impact of one transgression, the art of self-deception and the "storytelling" abilities used to rationalize make for some interesting reading. The cognitive reflective tests used to illustrate these points are mostly cliched, though (derivatives of lilies in a pond doubling, etc)

The last few chapters discussing the role of environment in cheating and what point does cheating in a particular context become "socially accepted" - are probably the standouts. He uses these chapters to lead to an excellent summary of the various behavioral levers in three categories (increase/decrease/neutral) on dishonesty and a sane take on the role of religion.

The difficulty of generalizing studies with small sample sizes in controlled environment is always a major challenge in this field - and the role of cultural differences. Ariely addresses this issue atleast in the relatively narrow domain of dishonesty. While someone familiar with the literature/pop books in this field is unlikely to find most of the findings dramatic - the incremental insights using some new and well-cited examples from previous books does help a reader develop a healthy skepticism on our own motivations that drive our actions.
35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "People are not saints." March 21 2012
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Cheating is widespread, if we are to believe the media reports that bombard us daily. For example, perpetrators of multi-billion dollar Ponzi schemes leave stunned retirees and working people destitute; crooked accountants cook the books for their corporate employers; and unethical teachers and principles inflate students' test scores. Professor of behavioral economics Dan Ariely weighs in on this topic in "The Honest Truth about Dishonesty." As he did in his previous works, Ariely designs a series of experiments to test various hypotheses. His goal is to learn more about why and under what conditions average men and women are likely to cheat. He also discusses the type of measures that could be implemented to cut down on deceitful behavior.

As it turns out, most men and women do not do a cost-benefit analysis and decide, "Since I can commit fraud and get away with it, I'll do whatever I want--embezzle, fudge figures, plagiarize, take things that aren't mine, etc." Those of us who have a conscience and want to feel good about ourselves will probably hesitate before committing serious transgressions. Dishonesty is complex and may be connected to such factors as our level of fatigue; our perception of who is watching us; whether we are alone or part of a group; how connected we feel to our deeds; and even how creative we are.

"The Honest Truth" is a relatively jargon-free, lighthearted, and humorous look at a serious subject. The good news is that we are not all hard-wired to do the wrong thing. However, since "most of us need little reminders to keep ourselves on the right path," it does not hurt to make changes (such as regulations to reduce conflicts of interest) that might reduce the temptation to rationalize our misbehavior. Ariely's conclusions are not all groundbreaking or even particularly surprising. However, they do provide food for thought and could provoke an enlightening discussion about ethics and human psychology. Comment | Permalink
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marketplace of Honesty June 14 2012
By Kevin L. Nenstiel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
If we're honest with ourselves, we know we're not honest with ourselves, at least not always. Post-Enlightenment rationalism has a myth of humans as instruments of reason, and sees unreason as a failure of human nature. But behavioral economist Dan Ariely, who has studied the limits of human rationality for years, turns his attention to what those limits say about humans' ability to deceive. And his results are fascinating.

Classical economics contends that most people weigh the rewards of breaking the rules against the risk of getting caught. Ariely demonstrates how that vision, called the Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC), withers under scrutiny. Even as a thought experiment, it doesn't make sense, or nobody would carry their laptops and iPods in public. But Ariely isn't content with thought experiments, when he could apply very real science.

Behavioral economics apparently combines the most ambitious aspects of developmental psychology with business administration. As such, Ariely buttresses his assertions with bold new research. He demonstrates, through clinically controlled experiments, the manners in which honesty waxes and wanes. And he shows the manner in which diligent leaders can encourage greater honesty without resorting to irrational moralism.

Start with two seemingly contradictory facts. First, if we remove consequences, nearly everyone cheats at least a little bit. Second, almost nobody cheats as much as they could. Even if we kick the doors wide open and send all the guards home, few people would plunder the treasury. We can perform bizarre mental gymnastics to rationalize away small transgressions, but people will do what it takes to think of themselves as essentially good.

Unfortunately, we often cannot see the subtle ways in which daily life undermines our honesty. We miss the conflicts of interest that plague virtually all of us--if I can recommend two choices of action for you, and one will make me a profit, what will stop me from putting your needs ahead of mine? And, strangely enough, common human altruism can justify dishonesty. If I can tell a lie that earns you a reward, my likelihood of dishonesty increases.

But it's not enough that dishonesty just happens; it also spreads virally. When we see people who essentially resemble us get away with dishonesty, we are more likely to cheat ourselves. Anyone who remembers the business ethics failures of 2002 and 2008 recognizes this. The reassuring corollary of this, however, proves that, if we see others resist dishonesty, our likelihood of virtuous behavior increases. We seek role models, even as adults.

Importantly, the most common suggestions for suppressing dishonesty don't work. While Ariely proves that supervision discourages cheating, regulation only works if regulators remain omnipresent yet emotionally distant, which is unfeasible. And harsh punishments only work if people perform cost-benefit analysis before cheating, which Ariely shows we do not. Thus both the traditional liberal and conservative solutions prove founded on empty air.

Ariely's most notable solution to dishonesty is also his simplest: remind people that they have a moral code. If people signed contracts, tax returns, and other documents at the top rather than the bottom, people would fudge less. If we ask people to contemplate their ethical foundations, they act appropriately. Even self-avowed atheists cheat less after swearing on a Bible. These elegant solutions arise not from external scolding, but innate declarations of character.

Rituals of purification also seem to make a difference. Research subjects cheated less right after Catholic confession, the rites of Ramadan and Yom Kippur, and other sacred "reset buttons." Of course, today's plural society could not compel us to participate in religious rites; but Ariely speculates on the possibility of creating secular equivalents. Considering how many of us have something to confess, I heartily endorse this plan.

I wish Ariely addressed how much our flexible honesty is innate, and how much is learned. In a late chapter, he describes performing his honesty experiments in multiple nations, finding that people demonstrate similar levels of honesty across borders. But since all societies rely on standards of trust, a dishonest society seems very unlikely. Perhaps Ariely could only test inherent honesty using children raised by wolves or something.

Ariely demonstrates that, if we clear away the ideological rubbish, the systems currently in place to encourage honesty have not worked. If we claim to be rational people, we will stop clinging to our Enlightenment myths, and recognize the deeper truth: humans are complex and inconsistent, and deserve the respect that comes with addressing our issues with nuance. We can become honest. Here's hoping.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars for readers fascinated by decision making and virtue April 30 2012
By Todd B. Kashdan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
All of Dan Ariely's books are intelligent and entertaining.
Dan knows how to explain why scientific findings will help you understand humanity.

Collaboration often leads to more cheating without any increase in productivity.
Being exposed to lies and deceit by people that we can identify with influences us to act the same.
The act of wearing or carrying counterfeit goods makes us more liable to cheat.
Creativity enables us to come up with strategies for breaking rules, and rationalizations that make us feel fine afterwards.

The list goes on and Dan has plenty of science to back up each insight.

My favorite sections of the book were those that focused on cultural differences (Chapter 10) (as far too many studies are done with young, white, privileged college students in the USA) and why doctors often become less trustworthy as we get to know them and build a relationship with them (Chapter 3). I also think his personal stories are highlights of the book. He is simply killer at moving from narrator straight into the science.

A few downsides:
- if you've read one Ariely book, you will find a decent amount of overlap in this one
- you will get tired of the same experimental methodology used in a large number of studies throughout the book (his beloved matrix task)
- expect to be skeptical of whether some of these studies are relevant to decisions about honesty, deception, and cheating in real-world situations

An easy, interesting read by a fantastic writer.
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