What Makes Us Cheat? Three Classic Experiments from Behavioral Economics.
Over a year ago by SIMON OXENHAM
Dan Ariely, the psychologist who popularised behavioral economics, has made a fascinating documentary with director Yael Melamede exploring what makes us dishonest. I’ve just finished watching it and it’s something of a masterpiece of psychological storytelling, delving deep into contemporary tales of dishonesty, and supporting its narrative with cunningly designed experiments that have been neatly reconstructed for the film camera.
Below are three excerpts I selected in which Ariely and his co-authors walk us through some of their most thought-provoking experiments and discuss their implications, reproduced here with the permission of the filmmaker.
The Matrix Experiments
Most people cheat a little bit, cumulatively this low-level cheating dwarfs the economic impact of those who cheat a lot.
The Human Capacity for Self-Deception
Most people believe they are somewhat better than average; not only is this statistically impossible, but also even when we know full well that we are cheating, we’ll still fool ourselves into believing otherwise. Our self-evaluation remains distorted even when our own money is at stake, a principle known as the optimism bias.
Whether or not we cheat has less to do with the probability of being caught, than whether or not we feel cheating is socially acceptable within our social circle.
For more of the above, I recommend watching Ariely’s film – (Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies, which includes more experiments from behavioral economics described in detail, along with some fascinating case studies from professional cheaters: athletes who’ve been caught doping, bankers who’ve been jailed for insider trading, and partners caught stepping out on their significant others.
Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of the film from the producers.
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Wow, does that work?
The memory we used to share is no longer coherent.
She did not cheat on the test, for it was not the right thing to do.
Rock music approaches at high velocity.
This sums up the Royal Way to the Beloved.
LOVE, OBEDIENCE AND SURRENDER
Meher Baba and Charles Haynes
Once awakened in the heart, the gift of love inspires the lover to grow ever-closer to the divine Beloved. As love deepens, it is transformed first into obedience and then, finally, into complete surrender:
Love is a gift from God to man.
Obedience is a gift from Master to man.
Surrender is a gift from man to Master.
One who loves desires the will of the Beloved.
One who obeys does the will of the Beloved.
One who surrenders knows nothing but the will of the Beloved.
Love seeks union with the Beloved.
Obedience seeks the pleasure of the Beloved.
Surrender seeks nothing.
One who loves is the lover of the Beloved.
One who obeys is the beloved of the Beloved.
One who surrenders has no existence other than the Beloved.
Greater than love is obedience.
Greater than obedience is surrender.
All three arise out of, and remain contained in, the Ocean of divine Love1.
The inner journey of the lover from love to surrender is marked by an ever-greater capacity to obey the Beloved, who is the true Self of the lover. As the Avatar, Meher Baba acts both as the inner guide and the ultimate goal of this love-journey. It is the love of the Avatar in his role as divine Beloved that awakens the aspirant to the dynamic of the spiritual life.
Throughout his life, Meher Baba constantly trained his lovers in the ways of obedience. Everything that happens, he said, is the will of God. Thus it is the work of the Master to help the aspirant become more and more in tune with God’s will through obedience:
The beginning of real love is obedience, and the highest aspect of this love, which surpasses that of love itself, is that which culminates in perfect obedience to and supreme resignation to the Will and the Wish of the Beloved. In this love are embodied all the yogas known to saints and seekers2.
Obedience gradually opens the lover to the realization that the desires of the ego are totally empty and the life of the ego is ultimately false: God alone is real, and all else is illusion. As this awareness deepens, the lover begins to let go of what is unreal and hold on ever more tightly to the reality of the Beloved who is the true Self. This “letting go” through love is what Baba termed surrender.” Meher Baba
1Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing, p. 5
2Meher Baba, Six Messages of Avatar Meher Baba, Ahmednagar, India: Meher Publications 1955, p. 11
MEHER BABA, THE AWAKENER, pp. 96-98, Charles Haynes
1989 © Charles Haynes
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