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this weeks readings, we have learned quite a bit about the views of both Haidt and Ariely in dealing with ethics, moral psychology and behavioral economics. While it is nearly impossible to write about everything we’ve read, I will hit some important areas that I feel are worth talking about. Haidt and Ariely are two top figures in the area of judgement and decision making when it comes to these three topics. Both of these authors interpret the findings of behavioral economics by suggesting that human judgements are irrational. Ariely discusses in his book a lot of information pertaining to what he called the “fudge factor theory”. Basically this theory talks about how people want to be seen as honest, moral and upstanding citizens but they also want the advantages of being dishonest. The main thing to take away from his book is that for the most part, people will be dishonest at least part of the time but not to an extent that they view themselves as bad people. Ariely used many hilarious examples throughout his book to get his points across and it worked, in my opinion. Whether you agree or disagree is your choice, but I would argue that there are none of us who have lived a 100% moral and ethical life whether it be personal or business related ( Maxwell, B. 2014).
When we speak of Haidt, we have to take a look deep into his psychology research. He believed that people seek out change but put up a very high tolerance to do unconventional things. He believes that some people are predisposed to become political liberals while others lean more towards being loyal and having beliefs rooted in authority, sanctity and having security. He also stated that some people lean towards being conservative. Regardless of how you view this, Haidt believed that people were that way because they believe their view is the right one. I would say the same thing about different religions. For example, if you look at Christianity versus a person who is a Hindu or a Muslim, I’m sure most of us who are Christians view these religions as wrong simply because of the way we were raised and we feel that our choice is the right choice, wouldn’t you agree?
I believe Haidt viewed Capitalism as something that can be viewed by the left and the right which is nothing more than political. He believed that the “left” look at Capitalism as a means of exploitation where the government is the only entity that can control the market forces. He also stated that the “right” took on a view that Capitalism as a way of escape from the oppression of kings and queens, feudal lords and the such. This way of thinking gave rise to enabling people to start and own their own businesses without the heavy regulation of government, basically. Regardless of what you and I believe, these theories are worth considering and the point they make is most definitely arguable (Graham, A. 2016).
Maxwell, B. (2014). Thinking, fast and slow, Journal of Moral Education. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03057240.2014.883709
Ariely’s discussion of the links between promoting false self-images, creativity, and dishonesty gave me food for thought and connections. I would consider myself creatively disposed, with most of my preferred hobbies being creatively oriented (I like to write, crochet, and paint), and I recognize some of the patterns Ariely describes in my own experience. For example, when I was 11, my parents decided my gift for explaining why some misdeed of mine wasn’t really wrong required sitting me down and lecturing me on the definition of the word equivocation. I like to think I’ve learned since then, but I commonly catch myself in this tendency when some something goes wrong at work, for instance.
The chapter on wearing fakes gave me a new perspective on the issue of digital piracy. This in my experience is a controversial ethical issue. Several of my friends and acquaintances argue that pirating a movie that’s still in theaters, for example, is not really wrong. Their arguments vary; some think that it isn’t harming anybody (since they would not have paid for a ticket to see it legitimately), others seem to think it’s fair play because the film studios and theaters overcharge for their products. All this assumes that the essential question is whether or not pirating the movie is an act of theft. Ariely’s study frames the question differently as one of dishonesty and self-image. His research indicates that when we knowingly project a dishonest image of ourselves, such as wearing knockoff designer accessories or pirating digital content, this apparently has a slippery-slope effect on our behavior in other matters. Integrity, in other words, is compromised not only by major misdeeds but by acts that many people would consider inconsequential. Looking at Haidt’s common core moral values, the ethical controversy over digital piracy would seem to be a clear question of fairness versus cheating, but Ariely’s research suggests that this and other acts of dishonesty also raise the question of purity, in that acts of dishonesty are inherently degrading to the individual’s moral compass.
The chapter on the connection between creativity and dishonesty reminded me strongly of a book I read earlier this year, The Devil in the White City. This historical work (which reads like fiction, and which I highly recommend) effectively illustrates Ariely’s point about the double-edged nature of creativity with its comparison of two extremely different exhibitions of creative talent. On the one hand it portrays the conception and impact of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, a massive outpouring of creative talent that inspired many of the great artists of the 20th century, including Walt Disney, L. Frank Baum, and Frank Lloyd Wright. On the other hand, it portrays an entirely different aspect of creativity in the story of H. H. Holmes, a resident of Chicago who created both an elaborate false identity and a custom-designed building only blocks away from the fair to facilitate his hobby of serial murder. (1)
While I think there is certainly room for criticism as to how representative Ariely’s experiments really are of the more complicated moral reality in which we all have to operate, his results do feel reflective of real life, especially in capturing the inherently dichotomous character of human nature.
(1) Larson, E. (2004). The devil in the White City: murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America. Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.