The Three Central Questions
1. Why are the conditions in today’s workplace so ripe for thievery and fraud?
See page 271. Without even reading the book, I can guess that it’s mentality: “My employer doesn’t give a damn about me, so I’m gonna get over, get some of mine, take what I can get from this rat hole.” In life, leaders have to create stakes for the common people. If nothing is at stake, then no one is motivated to adhere to common decency and honesty. The more desperate a society, the more likely it is to become dishonest.
Take the desperation of Pakistan. They made good money off Bin Laden, taking billions of US money to "find" them even though it's now speculated by intelligence officers that the Pakistan military knew where Bin Laden was this whole time? Why not pretend you can't find him and keep taking billions from the US? The US doesn't respect us anyway. But then the US found Bin Laden on its own and the Pakistan charade was over.
2. What is insidious dishonesty?
Insidious dishonesty is the second kind mentioned on page 273. There is the first kind of dishonesty, blatant and in your face like a bank robber and the second kind, which is committed by people who believe they’re good but they rationalize their behavior because they believe their circumstances warrant their actions. Take Captain Save-A-Babe. He convinces himself, and women, that he should take care of them, but in reality he lacks the character to have a healthy relationship. He's living an insidious lie.
3. What internal mechanisms impede us from cheating wildly?
We are born with the impulse to please others and to be liked by others and we know deep down if we behave like scoundrels we will incur the scorn of others. Yes, OJ Simpson plays golf and lives in relative luxury but he is despised everywhere he goes. We don’t want to live his kind of life. See page 278. Also we stimulate the reward centers in our brain’s superego when we are obedient to society’s rules and regulations. See page 279.
Most of us are normal and as normal people our tendency toward dishonesty is kept in check for two reasons: Our fear of shame and our love of belonging.
Part Two. What conditions make self-defined “honest” people cheat, lie, and commit fraud?
1. We don’t feel our job has really invested in us. Not feeling we are enjoying any loyalty or respect at work, we’re poised to cheat and steal when we can. We no longer have a sense of reciprocity.
2. We see that mechanisms that track our footsteps to our cheating have been erased and feeling safe we will, to a certain degree, cheat on a test as evidenced on page 274.
3. Grade and performance inflation, the result of cheating, pressures us to cheat or we’ll be left behind.
4. We become disgusted by the “tragedy of the commons,” common property being exploited by a few sharks and criminals who ruin the property for the rest of us. We feel we have to be as bad as the others so we “can get a piece of the action.” A public park may never have toilet paper, for example, because a few people steal and hoard toilet paper for their own pleasure. Or a work office has coffee to share for everyone, but two or three employees hog all the coffee for themselves. The disgust of the commons compels us to withdraw from community and to live for ourselves, to be completely selfish as we say, "The hell with them."
5. Our profession is no longer an outward profession and affirmation of who we are, affirmed by oath. So there is no reverence. Our job is merely, that, a job, a paycheck, food on the table. At that point, we no longer have pride, we no longer have an identity, we no longer have a purpose. We are mere functionaries, cogs in a machine. See page 285.
6. Pessimism makes us dishonest because pessimism leads to nihilism: “Nothing matters so the hell with it.” See page 287.
7. The rationalization of presumed abundance: The company has so many pens they won’t miss a few. This company makes so much damn profit, what's it matter if I scoop a handful of twenties from the bottom of the cash register?
8. Self-esteem inflation: exaggerating your GPA, your salary, your height, your weight, your bench press, your degrees: all in the name of self-esteem.
9. We compartmentalize our behavior. We may be smart, upstanding, sensitive, “moral” people, but with strangers or co-workers we go into rationalization mode, justifying less than honest actions.
10. We offer our ideal self to the public, a self that contradicts our private self. For example, we tell people we are on a particular diet rich in greens, tofu, and fresh fruits, but in private we gorge on ice cream, brownies, and cherry pie. We don’t feel we’re lying, however, because this ideal self is WHAT WE REALLY LONG TO BE LIKE DEEP IN OUR SOULS, SO WHERE IS THE LIE?
Part Three. Review of the Essay Assignment
In about a page, explain what it means to predictably irrational. Then in about 5 pages, write about 2 or 3 or 4 people you know (you can include yourself) whose irrational consumer behavior can be explained in the context of Predictably Irrational. For your sources, use Dan Ariely’s book, my blog, and interviews with the people you know. Your seventh page will be your Works Cited page.
Part Four. Irrational Character Traits That You Are to Match with People You Know
Look at irrational behavior in the realm of studying, going to college, consumer and spending habits, love and romance and dating as they pertain to people you know.
You want to focus on irrational behaviors based on some of the following:
1. making a false choice through a decoy.
2. being enticed by something that is “free” but is not.
3. Reptilian desires triumphing over the cortex.
4. Wise choices impeded by arousal.
5. Stagnation, debt, and poor performance caused by procrastination.
6. Bad choices based on false expectations.
7. Being too dependent on placebos by confusing causation with correlation.
8. Rationalizing dishonest behavior.