Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rule No. 1 of playing hooky: Just call in sick

I had to laugh at a news item I read today which reinforced the belief that I have.   People who are not smart should not try and get away with a lie.    Apparently, the chap had called his boss and left a message that he wouldn’t be into work because he had fallen in a hole.  So the boss called 911…  and the rest  you can read about at:   Rule No. 1 of playing hooky: Just call in sick

I was once involved with a guy who embellished everything and lied about most things.  It was a rude awakening for me to discover this as I had until that point never come across anyone who lied so blatantly.  We once went on a holiday together and he told this Paul Bunyan tale about our background together to the couple we ended up hanging out with.  It was so weird, I didn’t know how to react as he just came out with these tall tales while we were sitting and having a drink with the couple.  Once I realized that he was a compulsive liar, I always verified anything he told me if it was important.  

The funny thing was that this guy lied so much and so often that I came to believe that it was ok for him to lie to me – I just got so used to it – and I just got into the habit of checking up on him.  I just came to understand that there was very little that this guy said which actually would be true.  He was a very charismatic and interesting guy, so he held my interest for a while.  But when it comes down to the short strokes you need to share the same moral values.  I guess no surprise that he and I are no longer together, eh?

 I mentioned in a previous blog about the TED talk “Why we think it's OK to cheat and steal (sometimes)”  by Dan Ariely.  At the time I didn’t go into the main point of the talk – which was what makes us more or less likely to lie and cheat.  If you haven’t listened to the talk as yet, I would suggest it and offer the following tidbits from the talk to entice you:   Dan has done extensive experiments to draw conclusive answers to the following:

-Are you more inclined to lie if you thought you would not get caught?

- Are you influenced by the gain to be made? Would more people cheat if the reward was higher? 

- Might you be more inclined if you knew that one in your midst was cheating?

He believes there are a few forces at work.

  • Firstly, we want to feel good about ourselves, we all have this invisible line which gives us a little bit of latitude that allows us to cheat a little bit but we try not to cross that line because if we keep to our definition of “honest enough” we still feel good about ourselves.   
  • Another force at work is our social circle.  If we know that others in our group are cheating we will then cheat more because we think it is ok.  It becomes the social norm and we think it is appropriate.  He makes some good points.
  • The last factor which makes it easier to lie and cheat is if we are dealing with something which is not money, but which represents money – like chips at a casino or stocks in the stock market. 


Dan relates his research to the stock market and what motivates those involved in the stock market to behave in less than an ethical way.   It is an interesting talk.

 Another short blog… And back to my bookkeeping.

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