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Dishonesty and cheating

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Dishonesty and cheating

In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty he suggests that we tend to cheat up until the level that allows us to retain our self-image as reasonably honest individuals.

He shows this by making the immorality of the act more or less salient, or by changing how moral we consider ourselves, then checking how much we cheat on various tasks.

For example, making someone think about the ten commandments will lower the amount they cheat (moral standards are made more salient to them). Carrying a fake bag makes our self-image more self-interested, so we are more likely to cheat.

If everyone else is cheating, we no longer feel that cheating makes us 'a dishonest person', after all, everyone is doing it. If we feel harmed by someone (even if they just annoyed us a tiny, tiny amount) we are more likely to cheat, since we can tell ourselves we are just getting our own back, that it is fair.

Cheating is not driven by pure cost-benefit analysis either, we cheat less often than we might be able to get away with in an attempt to preserve our self-image.

This suggests that preventing the 'first act of dishonesty' is especially important, since cheating reinforces itself. The more you cheat, the more your self-image is as that of a cheater, and the more you are likely to cheat in future.

Having people in your social group who cheat will have the same effect, whereas cheaters in the outgroup make people less likely to cheat, since they are trying to distance themselves from the outgroup.

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Last modified 2019-05-17 Fri 14:42. Contact max@maxjmartin.com