So if you make people do tests that are designed to give them the option to cheat such that you can gauge how often on average a person will cheat, you find some cools things.
1) On average, people will cheat. But only by a little bit, even if it’s very obvious that there’s no way that they can get caught.
2) If you make them wear really expensive designer sunglasses and tell them that the sunglasses are fake, they will cheat more on these tests. Weird huh.
The idea is that most of our propensity to cheat is derived from the view we have of our self as an upstanding person and the rationalizations we make around this. If we disrupt this idea even a little, it seems we are tempted to take it pretty far. Think about diet cheating. If you’re on a diet and have a single bite of something bad, you’re very likely to think “Oh well, I’ve broken my diet for the day, I’ll start again tomorrow” and go bonkers. So ya, don’t wear sunglasses that you think are fake and you’ll be a more honest person.
The experiments and notions explained here are from Dan Ariely’s new book. It’s pretty good so far – book review to come.