Why, when, and how are we dishonest?
Our website was made as a project for the class “Surprise Endings: Social Science and Literature” at Duke University taught by Professors Ariely and Davidson. Our group, composed of Arin, Christine, Darius, Sammy, and Woojin, covered the topic “Honesty and Dishonesty.”
All of us, at some time or another, have been dishonest. “On my way” when we just get out of bed, “Looks great on you” when it doesn’t, or the age-old cookie from the cookie jar. But why are we dishonest? When do lie and when do we not? And how do we go about it? These are questions we investigated from five different, yet entwined, perspectives. First we took a look at what happens in our brains on a biological level when we lie. But dishonesty doesn’t just involve one brain. So, we then surveyed how dishonesty evolved in human societies, pitting one brain against others. As we moved into studying societies, we thought about how we consider dishonesty socially, and what social behaviors or characteristics enhance or subdue it. Meanwhile, we approached dishonesty from a calculating, economic approach—what goes into the equation when we make those choices—along with a game to demonstrate that. And lastly, we read and analyzed stories that we tell others about our dishonesty, in anticipation that this reflection delivers some answers. And so, along with our readings, we hope you get a thorough understanding of dishonesty from several different, yet complementary, fields of study.
Table of Contents
- Surprise Endings interview with Dan Ariely and Cathy Davidson
- Dishonest Brain
- Evolution of Dishonesty
- Dishonest Personality Disorder (Big 5 Personality Test)
- The Truth About Confessions
(I) Biological/Evolutionary basis of dishonesty:
- “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism” by Robert Trivers
- “How the Brain Shapes Deception: An Integrated Review of the Literature” by Nobuhito Abe
(II) Social basis of dishonesty:
- “Infidelity in heterosexual couples: demographic, interpersonal, and personality-related predictors of extradyadic sex” by Kristen P. Mark, Erick Janssen, and Robin R. Milhausen
- “Narcissism and academic dishonesty: The exhibitionism dimension and the lack of guilt” by Amy B. Brunella, Sara Staatsa, Jamie Bardenb, and Julie M. Huppa
- “Fudge Factor: A Look at a Harvard Science Fraud Case” by Scott O. Lilienfeld
(III) Literary basis of dishonesty
(IV) Economic basis of dishonesty:
- Freakonomics Chapter One: “What do School Teachers and Sumo Wrestlers have in common?” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (Expand contents to find chapter one)
- “Why Do (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs?” by Jeff Bercovici
- “On Our Buggy Moral Code” by Dan Ariely
- “Contagion and Differentiation in Unethical Behavior” by Francesca Gino, Shahar Ayal, and Dan Ariely
(V) Dan Ariely & Cathy Davison Video
After browsing through the pages and the readings, please comment for each of the four categories (biological & evolutionary, social, economic, and literary) on what was the most interesting, thought provoking, or alarming point. And then explain which category gave the most compelling explanation of our dishonesty, and any connections you made between the categories.
Responses can be posted on our class website project page.