It turns out that being creative also involves a healthy dose of dishonesty.

The first use of the U.S. Postal Service was to sell products that didn’t exist. Spam dominates global email volume today. Hoaxes and pranks have been ritualized in everyday culture. And yet, we tend to believe that dishonesty and fraud are confined to “bad people,” of whom there are far fewer than the rest of us “good people” — that immoral behavior, as social psychologist Philip Zimbardo puts it, is a case of a few bad apples in an otherwise good barrel.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely belongs to the rare breed of scientists who are both actively engaged in empirical research, running all kinds of fascinating experiments in the lab, and keenly skilled in synthesizing those findings into equally fascinating insights into human nature, then communicating those articulately and engagingly to a non-scientist reader. That’s precisely what he has previously done in Predictably Irrational, in which he demonstrates through clever experiments that even our most “rational” decisions are driven by our hopelessly emotional selves, and The Upside of Irrationality, where he explores the unexpected benefits of defying logic. Now comes The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves, in which Ariely asks himself a seemingly simple question — “is dishonesty largely restricted to a few bad apples, or is it a more widespread problem?” — and goes on to reveal the surprising, illuminating, often unsettling truths that underpin the uncomfortable answer. Like cruelty, dishonesty turns out to be a remarkably prevalent phenomenon better explained by circumstances and cognitive processes than by concepts like character.

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KB Johnson
Articles like this bring back memories of discussions engaged in academia. It forces my mind to issues of ethical or moral judgment, non-moral normative judgments, morality and moral philosophy. It brings back memories of Crito and Aristotle; and how can we forget analytical, critical or meta-ethical thinking. Lest we forget egoistic and deontological or teleological theories. How about Emanuel Kant, a rule deontologist, who believes that our conscience should be our guide. The problem is that most humans will do what’s in their own interest, however, W.D. Ross, developed what he terms, rule deontologist; he draws a distinction between what is actual duty and prima facie duty. Kant concludes that it is wrong to make deceitful promises. I struggle with issues of creativity when it comes to people like Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I struggle with John, Paul, George and Ringo; and how about Michael Jackson or Amadeus Beethoven ? Do we discard them as being creative artist? They were the ones who produced great art! Are we to look at the quote and accept, ” Put simply, the link between creativity and dishonesty seems related to the ability to tell ourselves stories about how… Read more »

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