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Dan Ariely tells truth about dishonesty, being irrational

Economics, Psychology, honesty, rationality

Most of us would rather not think of ourselves as irrational or dishonest. But in the books “Predictably Irrational” and “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty,” Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University, makes the case that we’re all probably both. And what’s more, he says, that’s not entirely bad.

Does everyone behave irrationally sometimes?

Absolutely yes. Irrationality is not about stupidity. It’s about being human. Actually it’s about both. Sometimes we behave irrationally because we don’t think, or we don’t think long-term. But other times it’s because we’re human, because we’re kind and generous and not selfish. So we’re all irrational from time to time, and occasionally it’s a good thing. How often we do it is hard to say. But consider texting and driving. If you text only 10% of the time that you drive, or even 1%, is that a lot or a little? The trouble is, however rarely you do it, the danger is just tremendous when you do.

In general, anything that causes emotion — sexual arousal, or hunger, or anger, or compassion — can lead to irrational behavior. Emotions are inherently nonrational. They are ways to compute something, react quickly and not think. Also, we’re often irrational about money. Money is a very, very complex domain. Every time you buy a cup of coffee, you should be thinking about what you’re giving up, now or in the future, for this cup of coffee. But that’s very, very tough to think about, so we don’t. And then there’s herding behavior. Every time people around us behave in a certain way, we may start adopting that as a reasonable strategy.

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