Charlene's Reviews > The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone - Especially Ourselves

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely
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did not like it

METHODS, METHODS, METHODS. Just because someone says they did a study and here are the findings, it doesn't mean; a) those findings were robust or statically significant, or b) that you can generalize those findings to other phenomena. Not only were Ariely's studies extremely soft/subjective, but he actually took those extremely unreliable results and applied them to other social situations he had no business applying them too. I never know how to rate these books. The questions social scientists want to answer are so interesting, worth 5 stars. The methods they employ to try to answer those questions are often so lacking that it is grossly irresponsible to publish the “findings," making me want to give it one star.

There were so many studies I could have taken issue with in this book. Here are just a sampling of what passed for actual science in Ariely's book:

Ariely was attempting to understand ethics (a very subjective subject to begin with) and provided subjects with fashion (brand name) sunglasses and perceived knockoff sunglasses (even though all sunglasses were real). Subjects then underwent his matrices solving condition (which I do not believe tells us anything at all about the real world to begin with) and those who believed they were wearing knockoffs cheated more. If you gave me a knockoff pair of sunglasses, jeans, purse, ring and told me outright it was generic, which cost a few dollars, I would find it more ethical than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to prove I am a superior human being by wearing the expensive name brand item you gave me. It could reasonably be argued that people who hoard money in order to walk around looking like a superior human being by branding themselves with labels other people could never afford are far less ethical than people wearing generic items. After providing his findings about the dubious ethical nature of people who wear knockoffs, Ariely suggested you should be weary of your date if s/he wear a knockoff. So, is the "scientific" message is that only very rich, self-important people are honest?

Just as troubling, Ariely is fond of the type of studies made famous by Adrian Raine. A few years ago, Raine, who studies psychopaths but professes not to be one, was caught luring young Asian girls to hotel rooms with the promise of possible admission to Penn. How did he escape the #MeToo movement? I have no idea. His science is just about as bad as his behavior. Raine studied antisocial personalities by going to a temp agency because, as we all know, if you work at a temp agency, you are probably a psychopath. Not only that, but we know that a trait of all psychopaths is lying. However, Raine, who equated psychopaths with temp workers, gave the "psychopaths" a *self-report" questionnaire. Self report is *never* scientifically robust, ever, but self report for people you hope are liars? Raine took the self report answers as truths. Think about that. Self report is bad to begin with. But giving self report to weed out the lairs, how is that going to provide any type of sample you can trust? Adrian decided they were liars AND that he would trust their self report. From the subjects identified through self-report, Raine imaged his little sample of antisocial folks and presented his "neuroscientific findings". People love it because they don't think about how he got those findings. Ariely included a study that makes this very claim, and he loved it! He did not think about it critically, at all.

I could add to this sampling any and all matrix experiments carried out by Ariely.

This book was supposed to be my downtime book, the book I read while falling asleep. I was so worked up that I had to change it to a non-downtime book.
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Reading Progress

February 21, 2016 – Shelved
February 21, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
October 29, 2018 – Started Reading
November 3, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Biblio Files (takingadayoff) Completely agree -- I can never resist these books, but end up unconvinced and annoyed by sloppy research and/or analysis. Maybe I'll start resisting!


Charlene Biblio wrote: "Completely agree -- I can never resist these books, but end up unconvinced and annoyed by sloppy research and/or analysis. Maybe I'll start resisting!"
I always tell myself I will resist too. But I love books about how we lie to ourselves, lie to others, and how our thinking is hilariously faulty. So I suspect I will get sucked into another badly researched book soon enough. I can't seem to keep away.


Rossdavidh Interesting news about Adrian Raine. I don't see any news reports about the allegations you mention. Can you provide a link to one?


Charlene Rossdavidh wrote: "Interesting news about Adrian Raine. I don't see any news reports about the allegations you mention. Can you provide a link to one?"

Not a single media outlet picked it up, that I know of, which is unbelievable. It was before the #MeToo movement. He should never have been allowed to fly under the radar. It was all handled internally and they gave him supervision, which was a joke and continued to allow him to work with students. This was despite the fact he was accused of keeping data from the females who turned him down and giving data to those who complied. Though, I do not know if this accusation was proven like the other ones were.


message 5: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Roberts Great review, Charlene. I have despise half-assed “studies” too, and much of so-called social science. Celebrity academics are another matter.


message 6: by Peter (new) - added it

Peter Sečnik It's not a doctorate dissertation, it's a book which generalizes author's findings.


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