A new film presents the science behind when and why people lie.
Everybody lies. But for the most part, we still see ourselves as good, honest people. So, why do we do it—and are we all just kidding ourselves?
This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Daisy Yuhas. Got a minute?
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, at Duke University, studies irrational behavior. In recent years he has found himself drawn to mendacity, prevarication, fabrication—you know, lying.
Now Ariely has teamed up with documentarian Yael Melamede to create a film called (Dis)Honesty. Through a series of interviews the movie presents real-world cases of cheating, corruption and little white lies, alongside Ariely’s scientific findings.
In the process, it becomes clear that the differences between serious fraud and a minor fib may be less significant than we want to believe.
[Ariely:] “Originally, we were going to call the movie Slippery Slope, because so many people basically started doing something, rationalized, took another step, another step….”
Our knack for explaining and reinterpreting our actions allows us to feel like we are still basically honest, no matter how far we stray from our values.
But just because we can rationalize our dishonesty does not mean we’re acting rationally.
[Ariely:] “Is lying or being dishonest irrational? Sometimes. Sometimes not.”
Fudging the facts might, for example, get you through one tricky situation, but the repercussions may make your life harder later on.
[Ariely:] “That’s not a rational path. In the rational path you would think long term.”
So the next time you’re offered what seems like an easy way out by lying, consider that you could just be lying—to yourself.
Thanks for the minute! For Scientific American’s 60-Second Science, I’m Daisy Yuhas.
—Daisy Yuhas, Eliene Augenbraun, and Benjamin Meyers
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Producers: Benjamin Meyers, Eliene Augenbraun
Writer and Narrator: Daisy Yuhas
Audio Editor: Steve Mirsky
Videographers: Benjamin Meyers, Jessica Schmerler
Stock Footage: VideoBlocks
Dan Ariely, Duke University
Yael Melamede, director, (Dis)Honesty—the Truth about Lies
To learn more about (Dis)Honesty and view the film, visit http://thedishonestyproject.com