CM 038: Dan Ariely Shares the Truth about Dishonesty

Blog Post - Dan ArielyWe like to think that cheating is limited to criminals and other wrongdoers. But what if it were true that the majority of people cheated most of the time?

That is exactly what has been revealed in the extensive research of Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. Dan has found that not only do most people cheat, but that it is true even of the service providers that we trust the most, such as our accountants and our doctors. Even more surprising, traditional deterrents, such as harsher punishments, do not have any effect. His work has profound implications for our work, our families and our society.

Founder and Director of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, Ariely is the author of the bestselling books, Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, Irrationally Yours, and the book we discuss in this interview, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves.

In this conversation, we talk about:

  • How dishonesty is a lot more common than we think
  • How most punishments do very little to eliminate dishonesty
  • Why conflicts of interest, like team or company loyalty, make it harder to be honest
  • The role creativity plays in dishonesty
  • Why it is so important to get a second medical opinion
  • The reason the slippery slope of dishonesty is so frightening
  • How a good cause – a charity or a loved one – can cause us to cheat even more
  • The important role simple rules can play in keeping us honest

Dan also shares his theory on what may actually have caused the Volkswagen emission crisis, and he talks about the topic of his most recent work – hate.

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned




Gary Becker and Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC)

Cost-benefit analysis

Mortgage-backed security


Harpers Bazaar



Donald Sull and Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World

The Dishonesty Project documentary

Joseph M. Papp cyclist


Yael Melamede of Salty Features


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