thetatiana: (Default)
thetatiana ([personal profile] thetatiana) wrote2013-01-03 05:29 am

Free Beer: The Truth about Dishonesty

I think this is a fascinating subject for research. I just watched this presentation, and it got me thinking about honesty.

I'd like to approach this subject from the point of view that I want to be honest. I accept and recognize that Ariely is right that our human propensity is to cheat a little bit in small ways and still think of ourselves as honest. But I truly want to become completely and transparently honest in every way. I think it's just a really good idea to do that. I want not to fool myself. I want to feel that solid confidence in myself that I can count on me to do what's right. And I'd like for those who know me to realize and be able to have faith that I'll always do that. So how can I set myself up to be as honest and I possibly can be? How do I change my own internal reward structure to keep me as aligned with truth, honor, justice, etc? How do I consistently train myself always to choose what's right?

I've always thought that empathy is a large part of it. I try to encourage my mirror neurons, or whatever structures there are in my brain that let me think of how others feel, what it's like to be them, to let my happiness mirror that of others upon whom I have any sort of impact. But Ariely doesn't seem to consider that factor in his research at all. I wonder why not?

What I get from this talk is that I need to:

1. Constantly remind myself of my moral standards. (e.g. the Ten Commandments exercise he mentioned.)

2. Think of my in-group as being the honest ones. Identify with those who are honest. See it as defining who we are. See it as what we good people do. Think of anyone who cheats even a little as being outside my in-group. (This could be a source of self-righteousness, and shunning, actually. I probably need to examine this item more, and decide if it's the right approach after all. What do you think?)

3. Confess, assess, repent, come clean, get a new start as often as possible, even of any tiny hints of dishonesty or temptations to cheat just a little bit. Begin again every day, every week, even every few hours. Realize that as a human, I'm vulnerable to this like everyone. That I can mess up. That I need to make reparations and set things right when I do.

4. Be very careful of conflicts of interests. Notice when our self-interest leads us to shift our views in various directions. Recuse ourselves when we need to do that.

I wonder if these procedures would work not just for honesty but also for kindness, tact, humility, listening, or other qualities we might want to develop in ourselves? These are very interesting ideas. Can anyone think of more ways that I missed?