Honesty and Dishonesty

Monday, April 8: Dishonesty (Group #8 Presentation)

Group 8 Student Leaders, D.S., Arin, Christine, Sammy, and Woojin

Research into the science of honesty shows how lots of people can cheat a little bit, and then the boundaries of what actually constitutes cheating are not as clear.  Basically, they push the envelope more and more and justify what they are doing gradually.  This tendency allows people to misbehave and think of themselves as being upstanding citizens even while they are misbehaving. As such, this week’s readings will examine dishonesty under a (I) biological/evolutionary, (II) social, (III) literary, and (IV) economic lens.

Readings: Choose 1 from Each Category for your Response

(I) Biological/Evolutionary basis of dishonesty:

(II) Social basis of dishonesty:

(III) Literary basis of dishonesty

(IV) Economic basis of dishonesty:

Responses/Assignment:

After completing the above videos/readings, we ask you to write a response to one article for each of the four categories (thus, you will have four separate responses). Your response to an article in each of the categories should answer the following two questions:

  1. Describe your reaction to the reading; what was most interesting, thought provoking, or alarming?  Discuss any insights, objections, or connections that you gained from the reading.
  2. What is a well-formed question for Professor Davidson and Professor Ariely that you would like answered?

Since we are asking for readings from four categories, we are not requiring peer responses.

Your Responses are due no later than 11:59 pm on Friday, April 5th.

 

27 responses to “Honesty and Dishonesty

  1. Category I (Biological/Evolutionary): “How the Brain Shapes Deception: An Integrated Review of the Literature”

    Given that I have zero background in neuroscience and brain behavior, this paper was a bit over my head. However, I found its findings on the neurological basis for dishonesty very interesting. The most pragmatic application to me is the use of brain-based lie detection in courtrooms. As this is new technology, I would be very wary of employing it in such a high stakes situation. Are there other practical applications for this new research?

    I would be interested to learn more about how a paper of this nature can be applied to our discussion of dishonesty. My question is for Professor Ariely: how do you use/have you used this biological research in your social science and behavioral research on dishonesty?

    Category II (Social): “Fudge Factor: A Look at a Harvard Science Fraud Case”

    A classic example of irony, this article explains how a Harvard scientist specializing in the evolution of morality has been found guilty of scientific misconduct. The most interesting point the article raises is the idea that his dishonest behavior, here in the form of fudging experiment results, may not have been a conscious act. Instead of deliberate dishonesty, the article makes the case for the confirmation bias. What troubles me about this explanation is that the scientist in question most likely new about this bias, yet still (allegedly) fell subject to it. Does this mean that awareness of our potential biases and pitfalls is not enough to help us from succumbing to them? I feel a central theme of this class is to be aware of all of the hidden forces at play in our behavior.

    For the professors- If awareness is not enough, how can we overcome these pitfalls and their adverse effects? Are we powerless?

    Category III (Literary): “The Lie”

    This well-written story provides another perspective on dishonesty. Intriguing imagery and writing style aside, “The Lie” showcases both positive and negative sides to dishonesty. I found it interesting how both Ellen, the mother, and Tracy, the daughter, felt the need to lie to the husband/father character. Ellen lies to him regarding her affair and true feelings, while Tracy hopes to hide the details of her sexual encounter with a TA from him. This brings up two often-discussed predicaments: is omitting information a lie, and is dishonesty justified in protecting someone you love.

    I’d be interested to hear our professors’ thoughts on the latter subject. Are there situations where it is better to be dishonest than tell the whole truth?

    Category IV (Economic): “Why Do (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs?”

    I found this article on psychopaths in business very interesting, especially given last week’s discussion of gender and success. Traditionally, the traits psychopaths lack (“empathy, remorse, loving kindness”) are, correctly or incorrectly, more associated with women than men. As we discussed last week, there are far less women in high-powered CEO positions than men, for a potential variety of reasons. Could a lack of psychopathic traits be one of them? Or is the fact that there are more male psychopaths than females, and more males in CEO positions, driving this author’s claims? In other words, is a correlation between gender and psychopathic traits making it appear that psychopaths make “great CEOs”? I would be interested to see the statistics behind this article before accepting its findings as accurate.

    Assuming that there is a real correlation between psychopaths and successful CEOs, I think it is important to consider why and how our economy rewards psychopathic traits. As the author explains, it is not difficult to turn the psychopath checklist into a prescription for how to succeed in capitalism. My questions for the professors are:
    1. What changes can we make to our society so that we stop rewarding psychopaths yet still maintain economic and business success?
    2. Do you think restructuring our society in this manner would help close the gender gap in high-powered business positions?

  2. Buck Mulligan

    Category I

    I enjoyed the Travers reading, although there is actually much more current research on this topic. Basically humans are completely irrational in the economic sense to behave in an altruistic way. Here I define altruism exclusive of situations where individuals can benefit from symbiosis. This is Travers’ postulation. Humans actually behave in altruistic ways, for the same evolutionary reasons Travers mentions, even when they stand nothing to gain themselves. This would be an interesting topic for Professor Ariely’s extensive research on irrational behavior and specifically dishonesty. If we accept that some people behave in truly altruistic ways, what differentiates the conditions under which these people may lie or cheat? I suspect it’s not as simple as the cost benefit analysis Professor Ariely mentions (derived from classical economics) or we would see much more cheating.

    Category II

    I think infidelity is a particularly interesting topic, specifically if we view marriage or relationships as a contract. When you agree to date someone the contractual benefit is, presumably the security of knowing that the person you are with is exclusively with you, and that do not need to consistently undergo the cost of taking someone out, going out to bars and trying to get noticed, or paying for an online dating subscription. The cost of cheating is the pain and suffering of a break up (low) multiplied by the likelihood of a breakup (moderate) multiplied by the likelihood of getting caught (moderate). If a couple is living together, there are more benefits to the relationship. Maybe you share some of the rent, or pay no rent at all if you’re lucky. Maybe you share the cooking and cleaning, or do neither at all if you’re lucky. But the costs are a bit higher. You have to move out. Or worse, maybe you have to live out your lease together. Additionally, the likelihood of getting caught is significantly higher. You come home late smelling of another man or woman, etc. You can see where this is going. If you’re married, the costs are astronomical, financially, emotionally and to the families.

    From this model, it would seem that many people would cheat on their girlfriends or boyfriends, some would cheat on the girlfriend or boyfriend they live with, and almost no one would cheat on their spouse. In reality, this is not the case. Although there is some spread, there is largely convergence to a cheating equilibrium across the board.

    Again this seems a classic case where people ignore the cost-benefit analysis. What explains this?

    Category IV

    I wasn’t able to access either of your readings from Category III, because I’m not subscribed to the New Yorker, unfortunately, so I’m going to provide two response to this category.

    I think a lot of the qualities associated with being a good business leader are completely antithetical to psycopathy. This article presents a very narrow set of criteria and loosely correlates these tendencies to what the author terms psycopathy. Actually, psycopathy is much worse. It involves a complete inability to perceive consequences of one’s actions, a tendency to defect in game theory environments where an incentive to cooperate emerges after multiple iterations, and potentially a genuine desire to hurt others for pleasure. I understand that some of the qualities here could be desirable. After all, as a Chief Executive, it is much easier to ignore someone’s stupid idea even if you should sympathize with their stupidity. In reality, Patrick Bateman would be a terrible banker. One of the most important things for being in business is developing a personal brand and a rapport with clients and colleagues. True psycopaths cannot maintain relationships at all. In fact, true psycopaths don’t spend much time out of prison.

    I found Professor Ariely’s TED talk really compelling. Professor Ariely addressed directly what I was hinting at in my first response. People can behave altruistically, but only when they feel retaliatory threats from their immediate social group. It is a necessary precondition to bring out the behavior. Therefore, as it relates to CEOs, spouses, Enron, and the government–how can we arrange institutions to bring out the best in people? Clearly we haven’t solved this problem. What are some institutional features that elicit cooperation and what can we do to proverbially put people who wear the same sweatshirt in the same groups?

  3. (I) Biological/Evolutionary: “How the Brain Shapes Deception: An Integrated Review of the Literature”

    I’ll be honest—most of the technical and neurological details of this piece went completely over my head. In general, though, I find the connection between our neurology and our behavior to be fascinating but not very surprising. Though the research seems to still be emerging, there is obviously some sort of correlation between deception and the composition and health of the brain. I think the question becomes: what can we do with this understanding? I tend to agree with the conclusions at the end of the paper that lie-detection is a very tricky art; the article proved that there are many different areas of the brain that contribute to the many different nuances of dishonesty. Thus, we must be careful when we use neuroscience-based lie detection to inform important decisions—particularly in courtrooms and police stations. Overall, just as DNA testing has helped to right many wrongs in the criminal justice system, I imagine that more accurate and better researched lie detection technologies could have a similar impact in time.

    A question for Professors Davidson and Ariely: Where do you think the future of “lie detection” is heading, and what are some of the benefits and drawbacks of this field?

    (II) Social: “Fudge Factor: A Look at a Harvard Science Fraud”

    I had not heard of Marc Hauser before reading this article, but I must say I am not entirely surprised that a prestigious researcher fell victim to confirmation bias. I think all of us, at one time or another, find ourselves succumbing to confirmation bias or selective thinking—I know that I certainly do at times. Although I like to judge the world around me using objective truths, the fact of the matter is that much of the world and our interpretation of it is subjective. There is no clear cut “right answer” to every question and every situation, so we tend to gravitate towards the answers that are most personally satisfying to us. Whether that is yelling at a referee when a close call goes against your sports team or interpreting the sound patterns of rhesus monkeys in a way that helps to prove a scientific hypothesis, I think we can find confirmation bias all around us.

    To me, the most concerning part of this article is the conclusion that little can be done to curb confirmation bias, particularly in the sciences. Science should be based on objective, methodical inquiry and analysis. Instead, scientists are being pressured into drawing the conclusions that are most advantageous—not necessarily the most accurate. I know this particular article is focusing on the behavioral sciences, but I wonder if a similar issue is plaguing medical research and other areas—and perhaps if it may be holding back legitimate scientific breakthroughs in those areas. Of course this is all just speculation, but certainly is something to consider.

    A question for Professors Davidson and Ariely: Aside from the sciences, what other fields are particularly prone to confirmation bias? What can we do as individuals and groups to combat confirmation bias?

    (III) Literary: “The Lie”

    I found this story to be a great read. I’m sure we can all think of a time that we’ve told a little white lie to get out of doing something we didn’t want to do. But what made this story so compelling for me was watching the protagonist weave a more and more elaborate story, catching himself in a web of lies that he certainly wasn’t going to get out of easily. Most of us (hopefully) have never been caught in such a complex lie, so to me that made the story more captivating. I found myself constantly wondering what was going to happen next. Was he going to come clean at some point? Was he going to take his story even further? How was he going to get caught? As a reader, I felt as though the protagonist was definitely taking me along for the ride.

    I also saw an interesting connection between the emotional state of the protagonist and his dishonesty. He seemed to go through an emotional roller coaster over the course of the short story. Initially, the dishonesty stems from his dissatisfaction with life. The protagonist then seems almost exhilarated by “the lie”, but eventually his dishonestly appears to leave him just as unhappy as when he started. Although this is a fictional piece, I wonder whether a emotional parallel exists in real life as well.

    A question for Professors Davidson and Ariely: Why do people get themselves into elaborate lies, and do they realize that their lies will eventually catch up with them? f

    (IV) Economic: “Contagion and Differentiation in Unethical Behavior”

    I really found this study to be much more about social norms and customs than economics, but still very interesting. I was in Professor Ariely’s behavioral economics course two years ago and dishonesty was a big focus of the class. For our final exam, which was a take home completed online, a student sent out an “answer key” to certain students to see how many would actually open up the key when given the opportunity to cheat (I don’t recall whether or not the key was actually accurate). Similarly, Professor Ariely sent out an e-mail after the exam offering students the opportunity to “turn in” any classmates who had cheated on the take-home final. Both of these experiments remind me of the study in the article in that they increased the norms and saliency of dishonesty on the final exam. Having a take-home exam already increases the saliency of cheating, but then having a student send out a supposed answer key certainly increased the sense that cheating was a social norm.

    Another aspect of this “bad apple effect” that I find compelling (which the study does not explicitly address) is the connection between dishonesty and fairness, and how that impacts our tendency to cheat or lie. I must say that I’ve had several opportunities to cheat throughout my education, particularly on take home exams. Although I never have, I do often think to myself—this isn’t fair. I’m going to have to study twice as hard as this person just to get the same grade, because they are going to collaborate with someone else or look up answers online. If one person is going to cheat, does it compel others to cheat as well, just to “level the playing field”? Especially at a school with competitive, Type A personalities like Duke, I suspect this may contribute to academic dishonesty.

    A question for Professors Davidson and Ariely: As much as social norms often lead to dishonesty, what are some ways in which we can use social norms to curb dishonest behavior?

  4. Category 1
    Dr. Jerry Coyne, author of “Why Evolution is True” once argued that no creatures exhibit completely kin-disassociated altruism like human, he attributed it instead to cultural effects; the fact that altruism spans all cultures however may hint at something deeper. The “Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism” tries to identify that deeper tendency; it reminds me of the work of Kropotkin, the famous anarchist evolutionary biologist. Kropotkin argued that mutual aid is equally (and possibly more important) to evolution than mutual struggle- that is, the fittest in many cases are those who help each other out. Unfortunately, we conceive of evolution in terms of raw power and brutal warfare- an image which led to calamities like social Darwinism. If we look at evolution holistically with Kropotkin’s eyes, the fact that monkeys make friends (recent research from Duke) makes since. The “Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism” provides a simplistic model of how this would work, but physical reciprocity is a problematic concept, and a lower form of mutual aid- humans have a way of helping people they know will never be able to help them; rational choice theory tries to create a ‘warm glow’ account of psychological utility for altruism, a drive which would make us act altruistically at all times because that is more likely to be beneficial over all. Still, the fact that humans are aware of the ‘reasons’ of these tendencies and still act in the way they do implies that altruism is more evolutionarily rational than rational choice theory.
    -Do we often lie for altruistic reasons? Is doing so good?

    Category 2
    Narcissists higher incidence of academic dishonesty is not surprising, given the advantages of hidden dishonesty in fostering a better image, and the negative correlation between self-esteem and dishonesty may make more since when considering that narcissists may have a lower self-esteem and act dishonestly to compensate, but their dishonesty weighs on them and increases their self-esteem. Exhibitionists have are also more likely to treat, but if people are recognized for traits like honesty, they may actually act more honestly, i.e. an exhibitionist for acting trustworthily would be less probably be less likely to cheat.
    -If we tell people they are honest, will they act honestly?

    Category 3
    “The Lie” killed me. The fact that one lie leads to another- that a cycle which spirals out of control occurs, is a common one. But we often forget to remember that at each stage we make a choice to persist in dishonesty, until the truth comes tumbling down. Its almost as if the main character wanted his life to be a lie. But in general do we crave for illusions or hope for a better tomorrow? Freud calls many religions, with their promise of a better eternity, a ‘wishful thinking’ akin to children’s imaginings. But Freud’s view isn’t pragmatic, it’s downright pessimistic. Writing off possibilities of the future leads to lies in the present.
    -Have you ever lied and paid a price outside guilt? Were you found out or did you voluntarily own up?

    Category 4
    Freakonomics’ outlines the wild relationship between unseen incentives and actions. We may cheat if the incentives are right, but I’d argue that for most people the incentives would have to be extremely high, and for many people impossible to meet. The cheating in Sumo wrestling, which for a long time was seen to be an extremely honorable sport, provides an indication that a reaction to said incentives are based upon one’s environment. Charging a fine for keeping children longer at the daycare creates an economic as opposed to social environment in which such behavior is encouraged. Prof. Ariely tells the story in “Predictably Irrational” that people will take sodas left in the fridge, but not money- because different contexts makes the incentives appear in radically different ways. So in the Harvard cheating scandal last year, students probably didn’t think they were treating, because the wording of the test- ‘the environment’ it created- provided moral loop holes.
    – How do we create environments where people have less incentive to cheat across the board?

  5. (I) Biological/Evolutionary basis of dishonesty:

    According to Robert Trivers’s “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism,” ‘cheaters’ or more directly those who are dishonest are harmed. From this evolutionary perspective, and reciprocal altruism, cheating would become an exception and not a rule because of the negative consequences. But is this really the case? Reciprocal altruism has led to game theory, and more specifically the Prisoner’s Dilemma. During my freshman year at Duke, I learned about this game through a class, and the professor ran different trials of it throughout the course. The results were pretty much the same: most people behaved ‘predictably’ or ‘safely’ and acted in line with reciprocal altruism. However the people that didn’t, those that effectively screwed over their ‘teammate,’ reaped the largest rewards. So is this a lesson that holds true in every day life? Or are we more inclined to play it safe or go all in? I think that the game and Trivers’s theory don’t allow for nuance, however. There is an implicit absolute: you either benefit or harm someone. In the real world, sometimes a lie can be benign. Sometimes you can act in a way that doesn’t harm anyone and benefits you. There are also gradients to account for; for example, the white lie. Most people would agree this is harmless, or, in some cases, more beneficial to the recipient than harmful.

    Do you think Trivers’s reciprocal altruism theory is validated via our daily lives? Or is Dan Ariely’s “we cheat a little, a lot of the time” a more accurate portrayal? And how does that arise from an evolutionary perspective?

    (II) Social basis of dishonesty:

    In the article “Infidelity in heterosexual couples” by Kristen P. Mark, Erick Janssen, and Robin R. Milhausen, a lot of the previously reported data about demographics influencing infidelity is shattered. I think this is delightfully ironic: on the topic of lying, it seems a lot of people could have potentially lied about infidelity, a form of dishonesty. After all, the previous studies were based off of what people reported. For example, studies pointed to the fact that religion was a good indicator of fealty; meaning, religious people were less likely to cheat. However, in the more recent study, religion was not an accurate measure of whether or not a person will cheat. This is an interesting divergence: perhaps religious people felt more pressure to misrepresent the facts. Thus, we have an interesting case of social constructs that lend themselves to dishonesty. Yet it is important to note that all the studies relied on data from surveys or questionnaires; it required implicit honesty and blind-reliance on what the people chose to disclose. So what explains that seemingly similar methods would yield disparate results? Could it be a cultural shift? As the years have gone by, have we or have we not seen a slackening in religion specifically? Sorry for the string of rhetorical questions – I don’t know the answers to them. But I think it would be interesting to pursue: the role religion plays in the social basis of dishonesty.

    For our professors, how would you think religion would affect dishonesty, and more specifically infidelity? Is it a social construct people are inclined to ignore and defy or adhere to?

    (III) Literary basis of dishonesty:

    “The Lie” by T. Coraghessan Boyle exhibits a similar dark humor to the previous clip we saw of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction –I laughed because of the outrageously macabre lie. I was shocked that he even thought to utter those words. However it has a sobering effect on the reader: the protagonist Lonnie’s “innocent lie” snowballs into something sinister. At its most basic level, it is a cautionary tale. It uses hyperbole, as all good lessons should, to illuminate the repercussions of the lie. But then it sucker-punches you: Lonnie pronounces everyone dead and walks out. There is no external justification or rationalization of the lie; just his complete and utter break from reality. This, perhaps, gets into the gritty ‘truth’ about lies: that we do justify and rationalize internally, to the point where it could become a reality for us. You’ve heard the sayings, fake it till you make it, or variations of that, and they imply the same thing, that if you say something (or think it) enough times, it becomes true for you. This is the scariest thing about lies, that they can be believed, even by the original lie architect.

    For our professors, have either of you said or heard a lie enough times that you came to believe it was real –or at the very least doubt whether it was a lie or not? Or have you encountered instances of this in other people?

    (IV) Economic basis of dishonesty:

    In “Why Do (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs?”, Jeff Bercovici makes a point to highlight lack of empathy as the crowning trait of psychopaths. And it makes sense: lack of empathy, at least from an economic standpoint, could be advantageous. Sometimes the more efficient or economical approach to business requires ruthlessness or, at the very least, a slight disconnect from human emotion. When you leave out human emotion, you’re able to make practical, intelligent decisions; for example, cutting divisions or spending in inefficient sectors. While it could mean the loss of jobs for many, made more poignant now by an economic crisis, it would benefit the company. Also, interestingly enough, Jon Ronson, the interviewee, makes the distinction that psychopathy could only lead to short-term success in the workplace. Think: Patrick Bateman from American Psycho . He was listless and destructive. However, while I see the link of psychopathy being ‘bad’ and dishonesty being ‘bad’ and how one is capable of the other, psychopathy doesn’t necessarily beget dishonesty. And the article doesn’t claim that psychopaths are successful because they’re dishonest. So then what does dishonesty have to do with psychopaths, CEOs, and success? Is the implication being that it necessitates a measure of dishonesty? I think the gap is bridged in the laundry list of negative attributes of psychopaths, such as lack of guilt or remorse. Clearly, those two are powerful checks against dishonest behavior; we’re human, and as Dan Ariely said, we “cheat a little a lot” because that is what our conscience allows. If you remove these qualities, effectively making one psychopathic, the risk of dishonest behavior probably increases exponentially, but then again so does productivity. Maybe then we’d be “cheating a lot, a lot of the time.”

    For the professors, how often do you “cheat a little?” And when do you feel your conscience kick in?

  6. Dishonesty April 8

    Category I

    “The evolution of reciprocal altruism”- Robert Trivers
    One concept I found quite interesting was his discussion of how moralistic aggression might be selected for in response to cheating, and then in turn selection favors feigned moral aggression as a new form of cheating. This then leads to selection for the ability to discriminate between the two and to guard against fake moral aggression. As he notes, “the guarding can, in turn, be used to counter real moralistic aggression: one can, in effect, impute cheating motives to another person to protect one’s own cheating.” The described defense mechanism is coterminous with Freud’s “psychological projection.” As a behavior that we take for granted, it is interesting to hear an evolutionary biologist trying to understand and place that behavior in a larger Darwinian scheme of evolutionary progression. This cyclical, evolutionary examination of how a certain quirk in human behavior developed is not a line of thinking that I normally consider, though it has got me thinking on how accurate these type of hypothetical, retrospective evolutionary models are. It also makes me wonder how is technology changing what is selected for?

    For the professors:
    How do you think technology is changing what is selected for evolutionarily? Also, Is life in the 21st century more or less conducive to honesty and altruism than the technological environment 100 years ago? As information becomes more and more transparent and skeletons harder and harder to hide from the internet, will our society become more honest/ more inclined to behave as if other people are watching?Or will people hide behind the great deal of anonymity the internet still allows for?

    Category II

    “Narcissism and academic dishonesty: the exhibitionism dimension and lack of guilt” Brunell et al.

    I read an article in Harvard Magazine about six months ago that was discussing morality in the University setting (i could not find it online, otherwise i would have posted the link). I do not remember a lot of the specifics discussed, but I do remember some discussion of how the pressures to succeed in terms of grades, internships, have contributed to a consequentialist, “ends justify the means” sentiment prevalent among many college students. Indeed, in my college career I have witnessed/heard of many subtle forms of academic dishonesty from even the best students seeking to maintain their edge. Thinking about what contributes to this lack of guilt, it seems that there are many different rationalizations people make for academic dishonesty…perhaps about GPA being arbitrary or fickle anyway, or something like: “if this were a subject that I was intellectually invested in I would have put in the work…” People seem to quite inventive in finding ways to assuage their guilt. Much has been made about the increasing narcissism of youths and the different environmental factors contributing to it. Yet more interesting to me is this great potential to rationalize actions (which may well correlate with narcissistic tendencies). We have a tremendous ability to make ourselves okay with behavior that we might condemn or look down upon others for doing. Other examples besides cheating on tests might include cheating on a spouse, getting an abortion or a hit and run. When we bring situations into the locus of the self we often change (knowingly or not) the moral-philosophical schema in which we normally frame that situation were it not involve us. This self-society dichotomy in one’s worldview is certainly an example of how ego disrupts objective logic.

    My question for the professors: In the absence of guilt what are the individual incentives for morality?

    Category III

    “the Lie”

    I thought that this story skillfully captured the essence of a lie gone too far. Two things struck me as particularly compelling and life like. Firstly, I really liked how during his first call with Radko, he breaks and mentions to the reader how Radko promised to let him move form logging footage to actual editing. He then talks about how he was tired of being told to stop doing things wrong, and that he had a college degree was not some “drudge.” Immediately afterwards he then lies about the baby being sick. These two brief anecdotes respectively introduce a broken promise on the part of Radko and damaged pride on the part of the narrator, two examples of the subtle, silly types of justifications we run through our heads when we lie (or do some other bad thing). These are the exact kind of rationalizations that I mentioned in my response for Category 2. The second really interesting thing about the story is how the narrator impulsively goes overboard when he lies to his boss. He adds the hospital bit the first time and the second time he adds the part about his daughter having died. His lie might not have spun out of control had he not included these extraneous, colorful bits, but some pathology in his mind lead him to do so despite being quite unreasonable and poorly thought out choices. I thought the author nailed it with these little details…the ability to capture human foibles is one of the things that makes good literature good.

    For the professors: What is (/is there) an example of a lie gone too far in your lives? How did that change the way you acted afterwards? If there was a change, did it last?

    Category IV

    The Forbes article on pyschopathy in CEOs touched on something that I have often chewed over–the benefits of being a psycho/sociopath.

    It seems that sociopathic behavior, in one form or another, has been rewarded in nature from the beginning. It can be summed in the adage “nice guys finish last.” While humans’ empathy and compassion have informed moral codes that reject highly selfish, sociopathic actions, these moral prescriptions are often at tension with natural impulses. That is why they exist. We do not need to teach kids to lie, we need to teach them not to. We need to teach kids not to be selfish, to share, and to not hit back when they have been hit. The mere fact that we need to teach against it points to some natural ubiquity of selfishness. That is not to say that the capacity for compassion is not an innate part of most or all peoples’ psychological mechanism. It just seems like selfishness has had the upper hand throughout history/evolution.

    Thus, the questions I have for the professors are:
    Are we selecting away from that selfishness in modern society, or is it being reinforced?

    Can knowledge of these evolutionary dynamics give us some ability to affect the progression of such a macro trend?

    Does morality factor into sexual attraction?

  7. Category 1: Biological Basis of Dishonesty

    “How the Brain Shapes Deception”
    From reading this somewhat dense article, I was most intrigued about the section of the inefficiency of neurological lie detector tests. Because it appears that our brains act in different ways when we are lying, these tests will not yield truthful results. I think both of how people can cheat the test and be led to false accusation. The more important is the latter. Sometimes, in interrogation rooms, sane people lie, against their own will, and say that they did illegal things. This is due both to harsh forms of interrogation but also possibly because of what is going on in their brain. Thus, what is the best way to figure out if someone is lying? I would be curious to hear about more current experiments and literature discussing this topic.

    Question for the professors: Have you ever been subjected to a neurological lie detector test? What do you think is the best way to determine if someone is actually lying?

    Category 2: Social Basis of Dishonesty

    “Fudge Factor”
    This article made me think a lot about the issue of confirmation bias that has permeated through scientific research. How often has work been falsified or misinterpreted unknowingly due to confirmation bias of the scientist administering the experiment? I had never thought of the scientific method as an antidote like this article suggests. I definitely agree with the line: “Good scientists are not immune from confirmation bias. They are aware of it and avail themselves of procedural safeguards against its pernicious effects.” A good scientist pours his heart and all of his energy into his work; thus, because he has so much invested, he wants the conclusions to be to his liking. This line of reasoning parallels the importance of always seeing both sides of a story. In scientific journals today, the articles are always about new findings or discoveries—you rarely see an article that describes how a successful experiment proves that a new drug does not work. Rather, the articles are about how: this pill might be the new remedy for dementia! I think that this leads to the importance of Medical journals publishing articles that reveal both the successes and failures. This practice will help remedy the temptation of confirmation bias.

    Question to Professors: When has confirmation bias affected your own research?

    Category 3: Literary Basis of Dishonesty

    “The Lie”
    It is always best to come clean at the very beginning—this is something that the protagonist (and I on some occasions) forget about. My dad told me that little tidbit before I could really understand the implications of it. I was so young, and I could never imagine lying to my parents, let alone not telling them immediately afterward. However, when one little lie leads to the next, pretty soon, you are stuck in a web of your own deceitful doing. I can certainly commiserate with the protagonist in that lies tend to have a snowball effect, and I have grown more and more attuned to the importance of sincerity and truthfulness.

    Question for the professors: What’s that little white lie that you told that ended up snowballing?

    Category 4: Economic Basis of Dishonesty

    “Why Do (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs”
    If I am a billionaire and want to assign my company a CEO, I want to give it to a psychopath. Well, not the bad kind of psychopath, but one that is a manipulative sweet talker. Almost every person that I consider cool under pressure or a smooth talker is a liar. But this trait of being a good liar what business is all about. I agree with the article that the business world has become too enthralled with the short-run goals. Life is all about getting what you want and getting it now. I think that this mindset is due to how we perceive the world in this modern (post-modern?) world. We have infinite information at our fingertips. What’s the name of that movie about zombies fighting vampires? Google it. There is no more unknown. After all, we have our iPhones. This prevalence of instant gratification has distorted our perception of what is good. Good is no longer something you have to work tirelessly on for years on end. Good is fast. Faster is better. So yes, I want a psychopath for my CEO because I want it all. And I want it know (Thanks, Queen).

    Question for Professors: Does the desire for instant gratification in our daily affect distort our emphasis on the importance of short-run gain?

  8. I. “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism” by Robert Trivers”

    Having studied game theory last semester, I appreciated Trivers’ paper on reciprocal altruism. What Trivers talks about is a cornerstone in game theory called “tit for tat”. “Tit for tat” is a strategy in the Prisoner’s Dilemma where a player chooses to cooperate so long as his partner cooperates, and defects when his partner defects. In a famous competition known as Axelrod’s Tournament in which Axelrod demonstrated that “tit for tat” achieved the highest average score of all strategies (http://www.classes.cs.uchicago.edu/archive/1998/fall/CS105/Project/node4.html). The implications for this are, of course, interesting: we are best off cooperating, unless we get cheated, in which case we should cheat as well.

    Question: Do you believe that there such thing as true altruism?

    II. “Fudge Factor: A Look at a Harvard Science Fraud Case”

    I’m not actually all that surprised that fudging data is not uncommon in research. I recently learned in my statistics class that Gregor Mendel’s data was statistically too good to be true, and therefore was likely faked (read about the controversy here: http://www.genetics.org/content/175/3/975.full). So fudging experimental data isn’t all that new. What most shocks me about this article, though, is that these types of errors aren’t caught sooner. The lead of the article reminded me a lot of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, where Hauser is the sneaky tailor who convinces people to see things that aren’t there. It is sad to me that there is so much pressure on researchers that they feel the need to forge results; and of course, this isn’t the only field where this type of pressure exists. Harvard had its massive cheating scandal last year; if students didn’t feel so pressured to get good grades, would they still have cheated?

    Question: Are low-pressure environments the solution to cheating? How do we eliminate cheating without creating a no-pressure environment? How does the academic community respond to people like Hauser?

    III. “The Lie”

    My initial to reaction to the reading was one of surprise and disgust. As soon as the narrator told his first lie about Xana being in the hospital, I began to feel sick. With each subsequent lie that the narrator made, the sickness pitted in my stomach grew. I don’t know if I feel because I empathize or sympathize, or if I’m just disturbed by the ease with which the lies come. This feeling of sickness is something I’ve noticed any time I encounter a literary figure who tells an outrageous lie, perhaps because in literature the character is usually caught. However I recently watched a film for my ethics class called “Crimes and Misdemeanors” about a man who has his mistress killed when she threatens to tell his wife the truth. He gets away with the crime, but goes through similar psychological trouble as the narrator of “The Lie”, until the end of the movie, when it’s a year or so after the crime was committed and he has returned to normal (you can find the scene here, definitely worth watching! — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRUV27b98eI).

    Question: Why do liars make such good protagonists?

    IV. “Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs”

    The topics in this section were not entirely unfamiliar to me, but I was particularly intrigued by the Forbes article on psychopaths. The author says that psychopaths lack empathy, which probably has implications on their morals, and it should come as a surprise to no one that business can be ruthless. Therefore, although I’m still somewhat skeptical, I think that CEOs are more likely to be psychopaths is a plausible theory. I’m more interested, however, in what this means for business ethics? Businesses should have ethics that allow people without empathy to excel. In a society that frowns upon dishonesty, why do the dishonest sometimes succeed?

    Question: What other professions might we see similar trends? How plausible is this article’s claim?

  9. (I) Biological/Evolutionary basis of dishonesty:
    What I found most interesting about “How the Brain Shapes Deception: An Integrated Review of the Literature” is the development of the capability of lying in childhood. I wouldn’t have thought that 3 year olds had the ability to know that they should avoid being found out. I’ve always been intrigued by pathological lying and wonder if people who tell lies know that they’re doing it or not.

    Are good liars in a way smarter than not good liars; is being able to deceive a type of intelligence?

    (II) Social basis of dishonesty:
    Fudge factor raises an important concern about published papers. How are readers supposed to know when an experiment or review is credible or not? We can rely on good statistics only so much. It is especially difficult when even the most esteemed researchers may fall into the confirmation bias trap out of confidence. I think that confirmation bias will always be a concern in research, especially because many people may not even be fudging results intentionally.

    Do you know if you have ever been swayed by confirmation bias? How can we avoid it?

    (III) Literary basis of dishonesty
    I for some reason could not get access to either one of these stories… not even through the library site! Sorry!

    (IV) Economic basis of dishonesty:
    I love Freakonomics. Learning about the extent to which people will lie to get ahead is so interesting. I don’t understand, though, why people don’t think they’re going to be caught… when does cheating become worth the risk? The story about bagels also explains a lot about people – do people not equate stealing money with stealing bagels, because it’s not actual money?

    Do you think people would feel more okay stealing 5 bagels or stealing $10 from another person?

  10. 1) How the Brain Shapes Deception: An Integrated Review of the Literature

    Dense piece we have here! Still trying to wrap my head around some of the terminology. However, I have always found this topic of lie detection fascinating. Detection technologies that measure areas of the brain most active when we are lying are certainly useful for legal or criminal situations, but as is true for most technologies used for detecting certain variables, there is margin for error. Thus, I think that we should be mindful of how much weight lie detection holds during controversial situations. And I think we should also explore the flaws of such technologies — the loopholes that may be exploited by test subjects.

    For professors: I’d like to hear the opinion of both professors with regards to using lie detection for criminal matters. Also, what if it was used more socially –to determine whether a partner has cheated, if someone has stolen something from you, etc. Would we feel comfortable administering a lie detection test on a friend to get to the bottom of something?

    2) A Look at a Harvard Science Fraud Case

    This article helps us rationalize why the Harvard scientist forged results to support his research rather than criticize him for this fraudulence. I think the concept of confirmation bias is something that we can all relate to. We naturally commit to opinions, or in this case hypotheses, that we think are accurate and have a difficult time letting them go. The problem here is that we have a scientist at the most accredited institution in the world forging results… I get the alpha who gets lost in his confirmation bias during social matters, but a Harvard scientist? It makes me wonder how many other statistics or findings we are presented with that are skewed by underlying confirmation biases.

    Question for professors: have you encountered conformation biases in your professional world? Could you share examples of it and whether you think it may be avoided?

    3) The Lie

    This story was a fun read! I think that all of us can relate to the protagonist. W have all told a lie before that turns into another lie. We’ve been caught up in lying the same way the protagonist has. I think the story shows how lying is a coping mechanism when one doesn’t want to confront the reality of their situation or problem. We see how all of the characters In the story engage in lying and how it permeates and strains their relationships. The story is a reminder of how lying is a human tendency. A mechanism to protect ourselves and the ones we love.

    Question for professors: what are your thoughts on lying or withholding truth to protect someone we love from getting hurt? Does it make matters worse if the truth comes out later? Also, what about lying to ourselves? Is being in denial about something the same thing as lying to yourself?

    4) Why Do (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs?

    I have heard about the C- level psychopath theory before but never made much of it, until I encountered this reading. I can see how lack of empathy is a vital imperative to conducting strong leadership and business decisions. Our most strategic or logical decisions are often made when we are not caught up emotionally. An example of this has to do with cutting back on salesforce. If you are a CEO of a small company where you know your employees intimately, it can be emotionally difficult to save your business at the expense of fire employees. So I think what we are dealing with when it comes to psychopaths as CEOs is the fact that they don’t consider “emotional expenses” when making decisions. Now that I think about it, all CEOs I’ve read about are a little psycho. That Steve Jobs biography is a testament to that.

    Question for professors: I feel strange asking this, but you both are vey successful and have had to be work horses to reach your professional success, clearly this comes with expenses: less time for leisure, less sleep, etc. Have you ever felt a little crazy, or, dare I say it, “psycho”, along your paths?

  11. Category I (Biological/Evolutionary): “How the Brain Shapes Deception: An Integrated Review of the Literature”

    I agree with GossipGirl that this paper was a bit over my head without much science background. However, I think it is pretty neat how this group went beyond social science and literature. When thinking of this area, I wonder if there are ways to see if people are more prone to lie by analyzing their brain or something of the sort.

    Q: Is there discussion between social science and natural science about topics such as honesty and dishonesty? We have lie detector devices, but also,

    This topic in general reminded me of the TV Show, Lie to Me. It uses facial signs to tip off whether people are lying or not. I think this is a good depiction of where biology (albeit not the brain) can come into play to tip off liars.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbOgHa34Ec8

    Category 2:

    I never really thought of dishonesty being highly correlated with narcissism, but it makes sense since those that are narcissists are generally concerned with their outward appearance as well. They want to prove to themselves and others that they are smart, so they end up doing so with any means possible, even cheating. I can relate to this. In high school, I wanted to be viewed as very smart, so I cut some corners and looking back, I didn’t really feel that badly. Now, at Duke, i would say that I am in a pool where I am not going to stand out, so I don’t try as hard with any means necessary (cheating) to try to get ahead.

    Q:Does the environment that the narcissist is in matter to whether one cheats or not?

    Category 3:
    I read “The Lie,” which was wonderfully written. I think it really struck a nerve with me in the sense that I could relate to a time when I initially told one small lie, but it escalated to something massive. In the story, Lonnie does not want to go to work so tells his boss that his child is sick, but the next day, he goes and says that his daughter passed away without a second thought. It was scary how numb he felt about this huge lie, and as an observer, I was thinking ahead to how he was going to deal with this in the office, but most people do not think of the future when they do start a lie.

    Q: How can we make sure we think of future consequences and do not apply hyperbolic discounting for future events before we tell a lie?
    Literature really paints a picture and puts us in a different environment. What other novels with rampant dishonesty do you think are or will be ‘classic’?
    Catcher in the Rye comes to mind because of dishonesty that Holden displays to others, but the honesty with the audience through the stream of consciousness style of writing.

    Category 4:
    I read Freakonomics a while ago in high school, but it was nice revisiting this topic. I think the field of Behavioral Economics is definitely on the rise, with one of the most renown in this field teaching us in every class. When it comes to the topic of dishonesty/honesty in economics, it makes sense that many people lie to achieve economic gains. If we weigh the sure pros we gain compared to the high cost, but low probability of getting caught, it may make sense to cheat and lie a bit. Of course, I don’t think most people really go through an intense dilemma in trying to determine whether or not to lie, but I think it is in human nature to be dishonest sometimes.

    This reminds me of the movie, Invention of Lying, which I think shows how crazy our life would be without lies:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-H2dNfx-Uw

    Q: Behavioral economics already has shown us that people lie. What is next for the field of economics in showing us more about ourselves and dishonesty?

  12. Category 1 – Trivers

    Trivers’ model for reciprocal altruism seems to adequately address the intuitive implausibility of evolved altruistic behaviors (though sometimes I wonder if the term altruism implies a complete unselfishness that can’t truly be realized). The model has many parallels with modern game theory, in iterated prisoner’s dilemmas. I’m especially reminded of Robert Axelrod’s The Evolution of Cooperation, which is primarily about game theory, but based on the title alone, could be thought to be about reciprocal altruism. Interestingly, one way Axelrod approaches it is from military-simulation computer models, so it’s interesting how interdisciplinary this is.

    Question: What does reciprocal altruism have to say about dishonesty?

    Category 2 – Lilienfeld

    I found it interesting how it’s hard to tell if somebody’s deliberately being dishonest, or is simply suffering from confirmation bias. Yet there doesn’t seem to be an empirical way to figure out which was which. Of course, the rigors of the scientific method dispassionately ignores the motives behind Hauser’s actions, since the experiment is flawed regardless of whether or not Hauser intended to be dishonest. Yet socially, his motives are important to us, presumably because they say something about someone’s character, which perhaps is an indicator or predictor of future success, if we want adopt a utilitarian attitude.

    Question: How do you avoid confirmation bias in your own research? How does this relate to attention blindness?

    Category 3 – The Lie
    I remember lots of stories built on similar premises—the film Big Fat Liar or the VeggieTales Larry Boy and the Fib from Outer Space both come to mind. It’s interesting how most literary (I’m including film in this) works that discuss the issue of dishonesty always attempt to show how, essentially, lying leads to disaster. It’s pretty clear what the moral is. However, very few pieces (or at least, that I can think of off the top of my head) treat dishonesty in a more positive, beneficial light. After all, the reality is that people are often dishonest many times when they feel like they can get away with it, as Ariely’s book discusses.

    Question: What are literary examples in which dishonesty is treated as a good thing, and what lessons are we supposed to draw from those?

    Category 4 – Freakonomics
    The issue of incentives or penalties is a big theme in the book’s first chapter, which we might think is inversely correlated with how dishonest people are—the bigger the penalty to cheat, the less likely people will do it. Levitt and Dubner show that it’s a little more complicated than that. The major crimes of cheating are, of course, fascinating—we all know there’s probably always some brilliant computer hacker out there trying to tear down every new security measure the “good guys” come up with, which is why I always kind of cringe when companies challenge hackers to break their systems. But closer to our day to day reality is the little steps we all take to cheat. What I wonder about is how often those little steps eventually lead to major moral crises—it’s not as if any lawyer wakes up one day and decides to defraud an entire industry. No, it all starts with the padding of billable hours, or something like that. Pre-law folks, take note: this is a premise of Shiltz’s “On Being a Happy, Healthy and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession.”

    Question: How do we avoid a slippery slope of moral shortcuts that might one day lead to major consequences?

  13. I. Biological/Evolutionary basis of dishonesty:

    In the review How the Brain Shapes Deception: an integrated review of the Literature Abe does an amazing job compiling the current neuroscience research regarding dishonesty. One of the things that jump out at me is how innate dishonesty is; even a two and a half year old child can employ deceptive strategies. Evolutionarily is makes perfect sense survival of the fittest; people use deception in order to gain some type of benefit for avoid a loss. This makes me wonder about the innateness of honesty in humans. To survive as a society there needs to be a combination of both honesty and deception; if we are biologically programed to employ deception are we also biologically programmed to employ honesty? I am really curious is honesty was developed with the development of language and as a social strategy and thus we acquire it as children. Not to bring up the endless debate of nature versus nurture but it seems logical that honesty was developed as a social rule rather than an innate survival mechanism.

    Question:
    Professor Ariely: nowadays, there seems to be the idea that neuroscientific research will provide answers and explanations of human behavior; as a social scientist, do you think neuroscience experiments will replace the traditional social experiments? Or is there something that social experiments can provide that neuroscience can’t?

    II. Social basis of dishonesty

    In both Liniefeld article Fudge Factor: a look at a Harvard science fraud case and Bruell et. al experiment Narcissism and academic dishonesty it seems that the individual’s ambition and desire for admiration drives them towards immoral behavior. Hauser noted non-existent behavior in to support his hypothesis, and students cheated to support there inflated self-view. Also both could provide a psychological explanation to their behavior: Hauser seems to have fallen victim to the experimenter bias, which could unconsciously lead him to see consistencies with his hypothesis in the video; students rationalized their cheating thus they could justify it saying they didn’t have the intention to cheat. To be honest this type of behavior and the common social justification that society’s standards push people into dishonesty really worries me. I feel that there is a snowball effect for these types of behavior, specially cheating, because academic cheating can translate to dishonesty in the workplace and then to white-collar crimes. Furthermore, people especially narcissistic people, given their lack of guilt, seem to have an instinctive way of rationalizing their immoral behavior. When thinking about this I remember Dale Carnegie in his book gave an extreme example of this type of behavior. It was the story of Two-Gun Crowley, an incredible dangerous criminal who killed a police officer when he asked him for his license. Until he was executed he did not blame himself for anything, he claimed he had a kind heart that would not harm anyone and he was sentenced for defending himself. This is an extreme example but it shows the extraordinary power of the mind to justify one’s actions.

    Question: How responsibility should we attribute to society for producing immoral individuals?
    III. Literary Basis

    “Stiches” I have to admit my heart stopped when Tracy told her mother she was raped, I was not expecting something of that magnitude after she assured her mother that she was O.K. This story exemplifies the importance of a white lie. As Tracy tells her story, you realize that it is not the violent assault that society associated the word rape but rather an acquaintance rape and she was just a scared young girl that did not know what to do and is scared. As soon as her father heard the news he bolted to go meet her and missed the whole explanation of what happened. Her mother realizes that reality is completely different from what her husband expects to find, and tells Tracy to lie to her father, who otherwise might blame it on Tracy. We see the unity of mother and daughter, who have to lie in order to keep their family together and protect themselves. This really makes me think of the extent of a white lie in the family. To what extent is it moral to lie, here it seems to be to protect the daughter from her father who will not be able to understand what happened.

    Question: The short story “Stiches” seems to imply that women, mother and daughter, lie to men with the justification of it being for the men’s protection? Do you think this is actually a female characteristic?

    IV Economic Basis of Dishonesty

    “Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs” I remember hearing about this article but this is the first time I actually read it. From my knowledge of psychology (couple of classes) it really doesn’t surprise me. Psychopaths are great at observing and manipulating people, emulating the behavior that they want others to see, and generally have a high intellectual capacity. All of these characteristics are great for succeeding in business just being intelligent and manipulative will get you far. What I have learned in my many attempts to get a job is that ambitious trumps nice and competitive trumps cooperative. If you want to climb the corporate latter you need to eliminate your competition and destroy all obstacles (no room for remorse or empathy). Therefore psychopaths are the perfect since they will do what it takes to improve efficiency.
    This article also reminded me of a type of player in a collective action problem that significantly reduces the amount of free riders. This player is the willing punisher, one who gets utility from finding and punishing free riders, which eliminates the cost of monitoring and enforcing sanctions since these players to it willingly. I can see how psychopaths have a similar role in the business world. They enjoy enforcing policies to make the work place more efficient, and have no problem with being disliked by the employees, which deters most of implementing useful but harsh policies. Personally I find it frightening that many of the qualities that make a successful businessperson are also those of psychopaths, makes me rethink capitalism.

    Question: Should we be concerned that so many of the characteristics that make a successful businessperson are also those of psychopaths?

  14. CATEGORY 1: Biological Basis
    First, I want to applaud this group for choosing these readings– I don’t think any previous group has chosen to include a biological perspective, and it definitely added another layer to think about, so bravo. That being said, I think I can echo some of my classmates and say it was a little bit too technical, but fascinating nonetheless.

    I found it interesting and worthwhile that the article about the brain and lying chose to focus on something outside of the prefrontal cortex. Often times, I feel that too much weight is put into this one region in determining human behavior, so I found their study about the interaction between multiple regions to be a rare, but important, distinction. The example of children and at what age they start to lie was particularly illuminating, and rather scary. The earliest lie I can remember telling my parents was regarding whether or not I had brushed my teeth at night, but it certainly was not as young as 2 or 3. However, it will be interesting to see where this goes as this field of study receives more attention and research.

    Unlike altruism, is lying something that is uniquely human?

    CATEGORY 2: Social Basis
    I realize this might sound stupid, but I found the Kinsey article to be the most interesting because I had completely forgotten to include infidelity as a form of cheating. And yet, perhaps out of all the forms of cheating that exist in our society, it is the one that has the greatest social repercussions. However, I did not think their findings were altogether satisfying. It makes logical sense that cheating is correlated with sexual excitation, but that does not provide an answer within a social context. People looking for potential partners are probably not going to ask those partners to take a sexual excitation quiz to determine whether or not they will be unfaithful. Additionally, though this may just be my sentimentality speaking, the study also does not take into account emotional attachment and guilt related to cheating, which I think should be an important variable.

    What form of cheating are you most tempted to engage in?

    CATEGORY 3: Literary Basis
    Once again, I’m impressed, by your ability to find interesting and relatively unknown readings. These two stories both illustrated intricate and fascinating ways in which dishonesty can play out in our lives, in a real and rather disconcerting manner– “Stitches,” more so, I felt, than “The Lie.” While “The Lie” felt a bit too improbable, I found the interweaving dynamics of different kinds of lies and dishonesty in “Stitches” to be completely spellbinding and gave much more complexity to the story. We not only have the “lie” that the daughter tells her mother, but it is regarding rape, a topic that is particularly vulnerable to the concept of deceit. Additionally, there is the marriage, which rests on the lie of her infidelity, and the lie that the mother tells her daughter to tell her father when he gets there, which she does not even consider a lie. And most importantly, the entire phone call, to an extent, is a lie as the daughter has always been extremely open and vulnerable to her mother, and yet her mother very clearly favors her son over her daughter. While I’m not entirely sure what this all means, I found myself deep in thought, long after the story ended.

    In which instances is it acceptable to lie?

    CATEGORY 4: Economic Basis
    Just a quick side note: it’s funny, now that we’ve had Professor Ariely in class, to go back and watch his TED talks and see the parallels between his onstage and real life personas. Anyhow, though I’ve heard him speak about his dishonesty research in the past, there is one element of his findings that I question, and that is the effectiveness of the honor code. In his experiment, he found that MIT students were less likely to cheat after signing the Honor Code. And yet, in instances such as Harvard’s large cheating scandal and even in my own experiences at Duke, I have not found this to be the case whatsoever. Signing the Honor Code does not seem to trigger any reflections on one’s morality, but rather an administrative obligation. Though I do think that it is better than nothing, I simply wonder whether it is an effective deterrent of cheating.

    How could Duke increase the emotional impact and guilt-trip of its Honor Code, and prevent more students from cheating?

  15. I – “How the Brain Shapes Deception”

    We very frequently use the term “pathological liar” loosely when talking among our friends and family. This reading sheds new light on this seemingly misused term. First and foremost, we see that pathological lying is associated with a neural mechanism. We often think about lying really as control-related, but this reading opens the possibility of lying being esteem-related, meaning that it is beyond the individual’s control, potentially even being inherent in his/her self. Secondly, it’s fascinating to think of the association of having a higher verbal IQ with pathological lying. On the one hand we might argue that folks with a higher verbal IQ are more likely to be successful and as a result have more power and more responsibilities, leading them to need to compensate for failures and/or mistakes with lying or exaggeration of the truth. On the other hand, we could say that those who have a lower verbal IQ need to compensate for their lowered sense of intelligence by using lying as a form of impression management.

    How much does social context influence a habit of lying?

    II – “Fudge Factor”

    This article highlights the importance for us as researchers/scientists and individuals to question our biases. We frequently entertain our own beliefs and proceed along a certain line of thinking until we are combated with another person’s ideology. I presented my thesis today along with a handful of other seniors whose presentations I have seen five or six times before. Before today, we all had a certain conception of the material presented by each of us, but it really took having dozens of other professors in the room who were taking a look at our work for the very first time to actually make us think outside of the box. When we get comfortable in our research and don’t have some outsider take a look at what we’re arguing, we tend to miss out on highlighting the rich complexities of issues.

    As professors in social science and literature, how are you able to effectively suppress your inherent bias when designing your research?

    III – “Stitches”

    I found this story riveting, particularly this line: “It’s not lying to not tell him everything.” We learn from our youth that there are two kinds of lies: white ones and blacks ones. We are socialized into thinking that we can make evaluations of what qualifies as a tiny lie and what qualifies as a big lie. The small lies are okay, but the big ones are really quite problematic. We learn to exaggerate and make up these little white lies because they seem to be somewhat more socially acceptable than other lies. Interestingly, however, no one ever dictates to us what those “black” lies are. We each adopt a different framework in contextualizing lying, largely influenced by institutions like our family and religion. And in interacting with one another, we often may engage in a certain form of self-presentation that entails lying and/or exaggeration to a certain degree that may not be acceptable to the person with whom we are interacting simply because their threshold for a black lie might be lower than ours.

    Can you recall a time when you felt the right thing to do was to lie, but that decision ultimately turned out to be wrong?

    IV – “On Our Buggy Moral Code”

    I love Professor Ariely’s presentation of the “personal fudge factor” – that we’ll cheat a little, just to the point that we don’t alter others’ impression of ourselves. As a student of sociology, I have read quite a bit on human behavior, and it seems as though there are two ways in which we act – either in accordance with our self-values or in accordance with the expectations of powerful others. When we look at this dichotomy, the personal fudge factor makes a tremendous amount of sense. In these difficult dilemmas, we let our self-values slide a little because there are certain expectations or pressures that we face in our social context. In order to fit in, we might often succumb to such pressures and effectively lose sight of our true identity and values.

    Results of last year’s longitudinal Academic Integrity Council Report indicate that Duke students cheat at a rate on the level of universities that do not have an honor code. As the Chair of the Honor Council, which is in charge of promoting the Community Standard, I’m curious – how might you recommend a redesign of the Community Standard in order to effectively instill in students a greater sense of academic integrity? Is that even possible?

  16. 1. “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism” by Robert Trivers
    This article analyzes the motivations of altruism from the perspective of reciprocity. Prisoner’s dilemma model is used to account for altruistic behavior. From an evolutionary perspective, it benefits the groups to perform reciprocal altruistic action. However, I think Trivers steals in an understanding of altruism different from common knowledge into his concept of “altruism”, that is cooperation. I will receive benefits from you as long as I help you.

    However, the question is, is reciprocal altruism a genuine form of altruism that oftentimes requires self-sacrifice to such an extent that the benefits one receives is marginal?

    2. “Infidelity in heterosexual couples: demographic, interpersonal, and personality-related predictors of extradyadic sex” by Kristen P. Mark, Erick Janssen, and Robin R. Milhausen

    The results are not surprising — sexual excitation, low levels of sexual inhibition, higher education, more religiosity, and/or higher income tent to lead to higher probability of infidelity. However, I am curious about the correlation between marriage (relationship) happiness and infidelity. The article seems to suggest that the former causes the latter. However, I am wondering if there is a possibility that infidelity leads to higher levels of dissatisfaction with the current partnership.

    Is it possible that people, with an eye toward extramarital relationships, end up having extramarital sex and feeling less happy about their current relationship? And that furthers their need to satisfy that unfulfillment they feel about the the relationship and therefore increases the risk of having more casual sex?

    3. “The Lie”
    The part of the lie that charmed me the most is the ending, when the protagonist is so engrossed in the lie that he has to live in it, to believe first that he has killed the baby, then his wife, his boss, etc. He is incapable of accepting the reality anymore. He has to keep making up a lie that includes an imaginary person who believes in the truth of the whole, lie.

    Does self-deception work to such an extent that the liar believes in his own fabricated reality? To a certain extent, everybody does. But I am curious about the danger of it.

    4. Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs
    The quote sums it up well:
    “The way that capitalism is structured really is a physical manifestation of the brain anomaly known as psychopathy.” I am extremely fascinated by how consumer society attracts and selects people in such a way that it dehumanizes. It is a dangerous path for human society to go down to. The article seems to suggest that the road leads toward socioeconomic success also leads individuals away from humanity.

    With the rise of social entrepreneurship, do you think that industry will make possible for us to not have to choose at the crossroad of success and humanity?

  17. “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism” by Robert Trivers
    “How the Brain Shapes Deception: An Integrated Review of the Literature” by Nobuhito Abe
    Recent advances in brain imaging has resulted in mixed ideas about what neural substrates are related to dishonesty. I found the fact that some reserachers had connected dishonesty to emotion and reward interesting, because I did a project during my freshman year about the fact that in primates, they have found a connection between monogamy/ feelings of “love” with the emotion and reward mechanisms in the brain. So, the exact same things that make us want to cling to one partner for the rest of our lives is the things that makes us also want to lie at all times. Why is that? Could these similar neural response be what causes our romantic relationships to often be there ones where we are most dishonest (first date syndrome, where we lie our faces off in order to seem more attractive to our potential suitor?)

    Fudge Factor
    I think that we can all agree that it is socially advantageous to lie. Whatever your moral basis, however you feel about lying, you have to admit that in our society, sometimes lying gets you where you want to be. These articles basically address why that is. I had heard about the Harvard Science Fraud Case previously. How has media increased our level of dishonesty? As a society, we have seen everything. If we haven’t seen it in person, we’ve seen it on the internet. However, our narcissm, our exhibitionism, our desire to want to be impressive and to be looked at with awe has not lessened. In this incredible information age, where scientific discoveries are casual announced on yahoo, lies get you places. Yahoo News could tell you that an exaggerated news headline is the only way to get readers. By this reasoning, our society promotes the confirmation bias that is discussed in the Fudge Factor article. How would you recommend we lessen our desire to impress in order to minimize our personal tendencies towards dishonesty or exaggeration?

    Both Literary Examples
    So these two stories approach dishonesty in two very different ways. In the first story we have this very distinct idea that what he is doing is WRONG. He is lying. Flat-out and with minimal qualms. We’re supposed to be shocked by him. He is shocked by him. But, in the second story, we get another view of dishonesty. The gray area. Is exaggeration a lie? How much do you have to cheat for it to count as cheating? I would argue that this is what makes dishonesty so prevalent, this gray area where some lies are okay and some lies are wrong. However, there are limited societal standards for this. In the second story, the stitches, I had a lot of sympathy for her because I myself am very dramatic. What makes lying wrong? If it’s the act of hurting people, then her lie has the potential to be wrong. If it’s the level of distance from the truth, then how do we determine what the distance is? From who’s perspective. My question to Dan and Cathy pertains to this idea of how exaggeration relates to truth. In much of the literary examples we encounter, we get a limited perspective on the story. It’s what we call, an unreliable narrator, I believe. So, how do we ascertain truth? Why do we want to?

    “Why Do (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs?” by Jeff Bercovici
    So, this made me think about the conversation that we had last week during our talk on gender and success. One of the interviewees mentioned women’s desire to be liked. This desire to be liked directly contrasts with psychopathic or sociopathic behavior. In order to be liked, we must be in line with others, and adhere best to social cues as possible. To be selfish or insensitive is an advantage in business, but not so much if you want people to like you. In the same way, being dishonest rarely makes you friends. So, if we’re going to talk about differences and statistical variation between the genders, then what can we say about the difference between men and women in terms of their psychopathic tendencies? Does women’s desire to be liked reduce their likelihood of lying?

  18. Category 1: Biological and evolutionary basis of dishonesty

    From a quick-and-dirty comparison of the evolutionary basis for symbiotic altruism and the cognitive neuroscience of dishonesty, one might conclude that altruism is to be found almost nowhere in the animal kingdom, whereas dishonesty exists almost everywhere in the human brain. The cases of altruism among that Trivers (1971) describes are few and far between, ranging from symbiotic cleaning between wrasse and grouper to warning calls in birds. In humans, altruism is elicited by rather extreme circumstances such as “helping in times of danger” and “helping the sick, the wounded, or the very young and old” (in addition to more commonplace but less costly exchanges of food, tools, and information). By contrast, Abe (2011) reports a widespread array of brain structures important for supporting deception, including the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, and basal ganglia.

    Intriguingly, Trivers posits that deception has evolved as a way “to regulate the altruistic system.” Has deception surpassed altruism as a driving force for human behavior? First, it is crucial to note that a reverse inference about deception from the brain activity associated with deception would be conceptually flawed—those brain regions underlie many other cognitive processes besides deception, and deception may rely on many other brain regions. That is the caveat that comes with any neuroimaging result. Second, the week’s readings did not include information about brain mechanisms for altruism, so that information shall be considered unknown and I will not attempt a symmetric comparison of the neurobiological systems for deception and altruism.

    Given those conditions, it nonetheless seems that the robust foundation for deception in the brain reflects what we experience as a strong and complex urge to deceive others when the circumstances are right. Anecdotally, there are many cases in which altruism has failed and deception has prevailed. In the absence of personal accountability, tens to hundreds of neighbors listened on while Kitty Genovese was murdered on the street below her apartment in Queens. Conversely, in the absence of personal accountability, students and co-workers steal food from their community fridges and tell white lies to get themselves out of trouble. In summary, people are lazy—in the absence of personal costs, we will allow great atrocities to occur outside our windows, and we will sneak food from others when we could have ordered in with minimal additional effort.

    It is of great concern that, because the benefits of deception are obvious and immediate while the benefits of altruism are often removed in time and place form the present, humans are evolving toward more malevolent preferences. Because both are highly dependent on context, it will be important for our social systems to create contexts in which the benefits of altruism not only outweigh its costs, but also the benefits of more self-interested pursuits. Wikipedia is a remarkably successful example of this. Not only has altruism has been successfully institutionalized (e.g., information sharing for the purpose of creating a free and useful knowledge network), but furthermore, dishonesty has been deterred by the community which works constantly to delete inaccurate or unsubstantiated information from the encyclopedic entries.

    Which is stronger: The human drive to help others, or the drive to cheat for personal gain? This question assumes that contextual differences are symmetric, that consequences beyond personal loss or gain are nonexistent, and that individual differences are negligible. In more concrete terms: Would you, acting as an everyman, rather steal $20 from your friend or give him $20, assuming he would not find out either way that it was you?

    Category 2: Social basis of dishonesty

    In each of these studies, we see how dishonest behavior may result not from a lapse of moral integrity, but rather, from other social and personality factors that make it an attractive alternative to honesty. For men in monogamous relationships, sexual excitability is a predisposing factor for infidelity; for women, meanwhile, dissatisfaction with the current relationship tends to make cheating higher in benefits and lower in costs than fidelity (Mark et al., 2011). Similarly, for narcissists, the brain differences that cause them to feel less guilt and put themselves on display make them especially prone to academic dishonesty (Brunell et al., 2011). Finally, for Marc Hauser, the Harvard psychologist found guilty of scientific misconduct, “confirmation bias” may have lured him into patterns of data falsification that were, to some extent, below his level of conscious awareness (Lilienfeld, 2010).

    On the one hand, these factors could be seen to mitigate an individual’s responsibility for an act of deception. The act was apparently caused by a personality disorder (and thus, a brain abnormality), or an ambiguous and subjective system for conducting psychological experiments that make confirmation bias particularly alluring. Thereby, external factors make it more difficult for a person’s free will to determine his or her actions, and reduce his or her responsibility.

    On the other hand, all actions must pass through the brain, and society does not make exceptions for people depending on their social circumstances. Only in cases of severe unmedicated psychotic illness can defendants plead insanity, and exceptions are not afforded to defendants from backgrounds of abuse or poverty. This is unfortunate, but it is not without good reason. Certainly, all actions pass through the brain before they are executed, and even if individuals have a stronger tendency toward a type of action, they retain veto power over these urges. Self control, even if it is threatened in some cases, remains possible and can even be trained with practice. It is also unpractical to excuse individuals on account of their social background or circumstances. These contextual factors may make the right decisions more difficult, but still, individuals retain their veto power. Instead, it would be more productive for society to improve the systems that have marginalized certain citizens; in science, identifying biases and consciously avoiding would have the same effect.

    Can sociological causes for dishonesty free individuals from responsibility for dishonest acts?

    Category 3: Literary basis of dishonesty

    Both of these stories were difficult to read. Certainly, they were well written and compelling—what was so difficult was to experience Lonnie’s surmounting guilt as his lie that his baby died spiraled out of control (Boyle), to experience Tracy’s excruciating uncertainty and self-reproach after she was raped (Nelson). These are two moving examples of the power that literature can have through the emotions it evokes. After reading “The Lie,” I more deeply empathize with both the allure and the consequences of lying. After reading “Stitches,” I understand in a new way the difficulty that telling the truth can entail.

    This causes me to wonder the extent to which literature can prevent people from committing acts of dishonesty themselves. After reading about the consequences of lying, would a person be less likely to lie? Or must a person experiences those consequences his or herself for the lesson to be salient enough to affect future actions? My emotional reaction to these stories was incredibly strong as I read them and reflected upon them, but if presented with similar circumstances, I don’t know that I would act differently. Indeed, if I were working a dead-end job, I probably would act like Lonnie and lie to get out of going to work. If I were raped, I don’t know that I would have the nerve to act like Tracy and tell my mother what had happened. The empathy that these stories evokes helps me understand why these characters acted the way that they did, but I am not sure that I have learned lessons that I can effectively apply in my own life.

    To some extent, applying lessons from literature is an issue of self control. Converting abstract knowledge into real action takes remarkable cognitive effort. Furthermore, the emotional salience of a lesson learned through a story is much less than the salience of a lesson learned by personal experience, no matter how striking the story is. This makes it less likely to remember, and less likely to be acted upon. Nonetheless, I am an English major for a reason—literature can be a powerful stepping stone in the right direction by encouraging introspection and teaching valuable lessons with conceptual and emotional verve.

    What is the power of literature to shape our behavior, and in the context of this week’s readings, to teach us not to commit dishonest acts? This is intended the function of many parables and children’s stories, and even of “The Lie” by T. Coraghessan Boyle.

    Category 4: Economic basis of dishonesty

    The effect that Professor Ariely and colleagues found confederate versus non-confederate others could have on cheating behavior makes sense, but it was no less surprising when I first learned of it. In the presence of a cheating enemy, we are inclined to cheat more often than in the presence of a cheating comrade. Intuitively, it makes sense that I would be more inclined to cheat if I saw a Duke student cheating, establishing dishonesty as an acceptable social norm for our school, than if I saw a UNC student cheating, establishing dishonesty as a norm for their school. But I don’t believe I would actually cheat in either case. Am I more prone to social effects on my honesty than I realize?

    This is a troubling question. On the one hand, it makes my skin crawl to think that my tendencies and circumstances may have more control over my actions than my conscious self. On the other, it is particularly worrisome to consider the possibility that cheating may spread like a virus through a college culture as a result of one student’s actions. And once an attitude becomes the norm, it can be incredibly difficult to reverse, as can be observed with the disrespect towards women and the false belief in “effortless perfection” that proliferate in the ideologies of Duke students. The question becomes how to undo the effects of undesirable and unproductive norm creation.

    How easy is it to create a social norm for dishonest behavior in a new setting, and conversely, how easy is it to reverse that norm? In other words, how many cheating UNC students would it take to undo the effects of a single Duke student cheating? How many (vocally, actively) non-cheating students would it take to reverse the effects of that same cheating Dukie?

  19. 1. To elucidate the implications of the article, I’d like to reference a rather dim-witted movie “The Invention of Lying”. In it, Ricky Gervais’ character discovers the benefits (money, social mobility, greater dating prospects) that dishonesty gets in an alternative universe where lying has not yet been ‘invented’. The movie rather clearly but illustrates a secondary thesis of this research article, that lying is not an inherent human trait but rather one a developmental one that provides evolutionary benefits. Perhaps this is why young children can be alarmingly straightforward and why we’re taught at a young age to be ‘polite’, a seemingly innocuous lesson in social etiquette that really teaches to recognize when it is beneficial and more acceptable to bend the truth.
    Q: Could pathological liars illuminate any evolutionary advantages to lying?
    2. When looking at academic dishonesty in universities, we often discuss the level of stress and expectations, either self-imposed or subjected by family or peer pressures that lead to bad choice. I’ve viewed cheating as a last resort that students opt for under time and energy constraints. The correlation between narcissism, manifesting as a lack of remorse, and cheating in this study is a disconcerting observation. In colleges like Duke where students go on to pursue positions that situate them at some of the highest echelons of society and where many have already experienced privileged before entering college, the implications of narcissism and cheating are profound. We have to think whether the irresponsible actions of Wall Street executives leading to the 2008 financial crisis or irreverence for consequence displayed by the Bush-Cheney administration are derived from a culture cultivated at the university level. At a recent Princeton Commencement speech, Michael Lewis shocked the student body when he preached humility and understanding the role luck plays in our lives instead of lauding students as the best of the best. At Duke, we don’t necessarily stress the consequence of cheating but the consequences of getting caught. And it may simply because teaching humility and morality is a far more difficult thing than imposing strict penalties on dishonesty.
    Q: How can we teach humility in a college setting?
    3. In both Stiches and the Lie, the protagonist’ fabrication undermines the graveness of two terrible events- rape and the death of an infant. The stories warn that a lie that is initially simply self-serving can have unforeseen reverberations in society. In both cases, the dubious character and motivations of the protagonist offer the rather simplistic moral than no lie is worth the potential benefits. In reality however, more often than not white lies have little consequence so it’s a matter of personal discernment and fortune to some extent, to decide when a lie is worth telling. It’s a decision we’ve constantly forced to make since childhood yet it is not one we’ve received much helpful advice on.
    Q: How can parents and teacher truthfully address the necessary balance between social etiquette and lying?

    4. Prof. Ariely’s Ted Talk ties in nicely with the Fudge Factor article. When we believe we’re right, its hard to convince us otherwise. But convincing people to test their intuitions or in the Harvard case to opt an un-biased perspective may not just be difficult, it may impossible considering humans are, as Dan so famously puts it, ‘predictably irrational’. What we can do however, is construct a check and balance system wherein our working environments consist of people of different vested interests, much like Cathy’s Hashtack learning model which we’ve discussed much in detail in relation to attention blindness. In the case of scientific experiments, that may mean seeking external validation during the research process and not just upon publication of results.
    Q: How can we improve the academic research setting to minimize conformation bias?
    In both Stiches and the Lie, the protagonist’ fabrication undermines the graveness of two terrible events- rape and the death of an infant. The stories warn that a lie that is initially simply self-serving can have unforeseen reverberations in society. In both cases, the dubious character and motivations of the protagonist offer the rather simplistic moral than no lie is worth the potential benefits. In reality however, more often than not white lies have little consequence so it’s a matter of personal discernment and fortune to some extent, to decide when a lie is worth telling. It’s a decision we’ve constantly forced to make since childhood yet it is not one we’ve received much helpful advice on.
    Q: How can parents and teacher truthfully address the necessary balance between social etiquette and lying?

  20. Category I: The Neuroscientist

    The possibility of being able to scientifically scan the brain to determine deception is a powerful and scary thought. After all, deception is an integral part of our society, for better or for worse. Deception and lies are often necessary, but indeed, they are also detrimental. I think a discussion on the ramifications of what this could mean for the future would be interesting. I suppose it is inevitable that we are able to scientifically determine deception, and such is just a matter of time.

    What are the social ramifications of being able to scientifically determine dishonesty?

    Category II: Fudge Factor

    I think it is interesting that the dishonesty team has chosen an article based on confirmation bias to fit into this category. I think it raises the question, “What exactly is dishonesty?” When I think of dishonesty, I typically think of deception, and plotting (thought I may have been watching too much Game of Thrones). However, confirmation bias is not intentional, but merely a misevaluation. It raises the question, to be dishonest, does there have to be intent from the dishonest party? I think yes, but it is an interesting debate.

    As far as the methods to combat confirmation bias, it is important to go into an experiment without trying to find a certain solution. This requires discipline on behalf of the researchers. As a stat major that often looks through large data sets, it is very difficult to simply delve through the data to find answers, as opposed to looking for exactly what you want/expect.

    To be dishonest, does there have to be intent from the dishonest party?

    Category III: The Lie

    I really enjoyed this short story, and have a few interesting thoughts about dishonesty. I think it was very interesting to see how the lies grew and grew. He started off with a very small lie, and then, in order to keep it going he was forced to make them more and more extravagant. To be honest, he seems like a pathological liar. He began to lie to his boss, even when it was not necessary. “I’ll be gone. For the funeral.”

    It is also interesting to note that he feels absolutely no remorse for what he has done. Clover clearly understands it, telling him that he can go to jail for it, but he doesn’t seem to care at all. He’s just happy he gets to have a few more beers. By the way, he has all of these free days, and he wastes them at bars eating taquitos.

    What makes a pathological liar? Is it someone who lies all the time, someone who lies unnecessarily, or something else?

    Category IV: Freakonomics

    I really love the book Freakonomics. The way they address everyday problems from a very practical standpoint, and then use those findings to discuss how they affect our everyday lives is very interesting. It reminds me of Professor Ariely’s books.

    This chapter raises the prospect of moral consequences. In economics, we typically respond to monetary incentives, but I think moral incentives are a key aspect as well. Those who lie tend to value this moral incentive to a much lesser degree than those who do not lie. Thus, unlike money, which has the same monetary value for all, lying is valued much differently.

    How can moral incentives be changed to minimize dishonesty?

    -JPD

  21. Sorry all, I posted this on the course description page last night by mistake. I just realize it was posted on the wrong page, so now I am posting it here.

    Altruism

    The discussion of altruism is both fascinating and extremely relevant to the topic of dishonesty. Understanding the scientific underpinnings of altruism provides an important element to supplement the philosophical debates I have always had about altruism. One interesting connection this reading prompted me to make was to Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid commentary that I read in a prior class. Kropotkin observes in both history and in biology the existence of individuals prospering through cooperation and collaboration. His thesis is that populations that thrive are not divided and in competition, they are rather the populations that stress mutual aid and altruism. Kropotkin and Triver’s reading are mutually reinforcing and make for a compelling narrative about the value of altruism. I am a little uncertain as to whether this truly constitutes altruism though. I would ask the professors, if an individual makes a short-term sacrifice in expectation of its long term benefit, is this truly altruism? Isn’t this rather an example of the individual making a self-serving cost-benefit calculation that is just cognizant of the long run?

    Narcissism

    I felt this research provided an interesting insight to the connection between narcissism and dishonesty – particularly as it pertains to academic cheating. Yet, I felt its conclusions were relatively unsurprising and failed to draw more important implications from the research. The recent Harvard cheating scandal elucidates that those who are typically most ambitious in their pursuit of success, are also those who use the least honest means to achieve their desired ends. I want to stress that this should not be interpreted as a hasty generalization; I am not speaking about all students at elite universities or all successful people. I am saying that there is a high prevalence of cheating at elite institutions. Therefore, I would be far more interested in learning about where narcissism comes from. The essay opens discussion but does not reach a definitive solution as to whether narcissism is a psychological disorder or a trait. Such a discussion would have been far more insightful. Therefore, I would ask the Professors to clarify the argument as to whether narcissism should be characterized as a trait or a disorder? Additionally, I would like for them to offer insight as to how we might mitigate narcissism at top universities and amongst elite populations especially by fostering greater empathy, and collaborative skills amongst these populations?

    The Lie

    This short story was a remarkably compelling – and hyperbolic — demonstration of the self-perpetuating nature of dishonesty. Once someone tells a lie, it becomes much easier to rationalize the next lie. To put it in economic terms, lying has a high entry cost but then each individual lie seems to have a lower marginal cost. This is pretty intuitive logic; lies pile on each other and an old lie often necessitates new lies to cover them up. This may be intuitive, yet it is still a disturbing demonstration of human nature. It helps explain contemporary examples of dishonesty, such as Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme. The lie grew so large and so profound that they were almost believe as true and rationalized as acceptable. Their collapse was imminent but the perpetrators were ignorant of this fact. So, my questions for the professors is how do people rationalize lies and justify them? Do we forget about the depravity of a lie as we become more entrenched in it?

    Freakonomics

    I think there is a discussion that emerges near the end of the first chapter that is essential to this class discussion on dishonesty and deeply rooted in major philosophical debates. Smith wrote of the “innate honesty of mankind.” Socrates agreed “that people are generally good even without enforcement” (49) Locke agreed with this classical liberal position in the innate goodness of man. Hobbes disagreed. He and Burke and other conservatives have championed this argument as the idea underlying their political philosophy. They caution against unchecked freedom because they believe man must be kept in check by institutions and a social contract that cedes some freedoms for necessary securities. I am unconvinced that Freakonomics resolves this underlying and deep philosophical divide. Are people innately good and honest? If so, how can we understand narcissism and Ponzi Schemes and the prevalence of dishonesty throughout society? The book only presents a cursory discussion of this crucial debate. I hope the Professors can comment more on it. Do you view human nature from a Hobbesian or Lockean viewpoint? Are individuals inherently honest and good or are they deceptive and sinful?

  22. (I) Biological/Evolutionary basis of dishonesty:

    The brain is an incredible thing, and to know that one must develop and mature to a certain age in order to have the ability to mislead or deceive somebody is beyond me. The neuroscience article also revealed many of the reasons people decide to mislead people, and most of the time it is for selfish reasons. Lies are usually told to protect oneself from a negative situation or a negative impact on one’s reputation. I know that sometimes, however, a small lie seems like the good thing to do. I wonder how often lying is used for good.

    (II) Social basis of dishonesty:

    The article regarding infidelity in relationships was a very interesting perspective to view honesty and dishonesty. Obviously, when two people get married, they are supposed to be, (in our culture) off limits to other people of opposite sex. Cheating, however, is a common thing to do in our culture, and it is surprising to see the statistics of how many people cheat on their girlfriends/boyfriends. Infidelity is obviously a form of dishonesty, and I think that this type of “lying” happens for the same reasons as other forms of lying. When someone is cheating, it is almost always to benefit themselves, and not thinking about how it will affect their husband/wife. I wonder what the most common reason people decide to cheat is.

    (III) Literary basis of dishonesty:

    The Lie was a classic example of the way in which people oftentimes get themselves into more and more trouble as they continue to lie. Everyone has been there before, and we all have the ability to make the decision whether we want to tell the truth or continue to lie, but the human instinct is always telling us to do things in order to protect ourselves rather than those around us. As we continue to lie we become more and more worried about the effect it will have on us, but although we feel guilty, it is still a selfishly guilty feeling because we fear the consequences for ourselves rather than the consequences of those we are lying to.

    Category IV (Economic):

    This article discusses psychopaths in the business world, and argues that they may be more qualified for positions as high as CEO because they lack some of the qualities of “normal” functioning people. Although unfortunate, the more successful and powerful CEOs lack qualities such as honesty and empathy. I believe that this may be true in some cases, but honest business is always the best business in my opinion.

  23. Here’s a great set of “ten commandments” for FIBA referees that will tie in very nicely to this exercise. Especially rule #7: “call only what everybody can see and understand”: http://www.cacbasketball.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/10commandments.jpg Let’s discuss!

  24. Based on the information provided about early childhood development in the piece by Nobuhito Abe, lying is based on experience. Thus the reading brings us to consider dishonesty as a range. This range also includes truth that can be deception merely in context. Thus could neurological insights really able to identify if a witness was lying in the courtroom? The success of lying includes how we communicate and use inflections and grammar to insinuate meaning based on socialization.

    This component of the Abe article encouraged me to consider deception or lying as a means for privacy. Leaving information out of dialogue is comparable to juxtaposing the truth. How this relates to the courtroom is so interesting. This weekend I watched Gideon’s Army, a documentary about public defenders. From the film’s scenes in small county courtrooms, it seemed that attorneys accept that the truth is, in some cases, non-existent. Yet rulings still need to be made. The implications of the report would have enormous implications for this underresourced field.

    A memorable quote from the mother and daughter phone call in “Stiches” reads, “Tracy said forlornly. ‘It’s not fair.’ ‘No, it’s not fair.’ This was what college would teach Tracy. It was, after all, the only lesson, and some people never learned it” (188). Her mother’s own issues with dishonest marriage taints the perspective and subsequent advise she offers her daughter. It encourages a lack of communication between sexual partners to be socially acceptable norms. We also alter the truth in order to make information digestible for others around us. Reading literature I often think myself almost rooting for characters to remain ignorant of life altering information in hopes that they will lead a happier existence. Especially in the case of Tracy and her father. The relationship between parents and children develops through so many life development phases. Dishonesty is used in “Sitches” in order for the characters to manipulate the navigation of different life phases. Readers can empathize with these social rites of passage that are especially emotional.

    Lying and stealing are different, but I muddle the overlapping implications of each sin. It seems that what is important is if action negatively impacts external stakeholders. Cheating on a test cannot hurt anything but a slight curve for the class. Many comments been made indicating that it may be more difficult to lie or cheat a person we know or even have a matching face. It seems like we are we more concerned with lying when we have more details about the situation in hand. Yet the literature pieces (like “Stiches”) illustrate how that argument may not be the case with certain categories of lies. Instead perhaps we tell more lies to people we love taking into account our vested interest in their long term well being. Professor Ariely beneficially distinguishes the possibility for this variance in the assigned TED talk.

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