The starting point of Dan Ariely’s behavioral economy studies is his heavy injury in an explosion. Most of his body has been burnt. While the nurses where changing his bandages he asked: What is more painful? Rip the bandage off and suffer heavy pain for short period? Or take it off slowly and feel pain in less intensity per second but for a longer duration?
The nurses ripped it off. Finally, a long time after he left the hospital and became professor and bestselling author, he found out that the encoding of time and intensity is almost always influenced by (predictible) irrationality. Then he continued his examinations on cheating in various social experiments. If you give a group of people the opportunity to cheat there would not be some of the group cheating a lot, but a lot of people would cheat a little. Since cheating is perceived as a simple cost and benefit analysis (how much can I win divided by how bad the punishment will be if I get caught) this might surprise.
If you have the opportunity to cheat and get money, you still would cheat a little. But if you cheat in order to get a voucher, token, stock, bonus, etc. your cheating degree would double. Even though there’s no rational reason why, this doesn’t surprise, does it?
It’s more appropriate to cheat if you feel part of a (cheating) group. Ariely comments this phenomena with a splahy statement: „IF you cheat is depending on what T-shirt you are wearing.“ Means: If it’s obvious that your enemy is cheating you won’t, if your team is cheating the probability is much bigger you will cheat, too!
In a nutshell:
- Given the opportunity a lot of people cheat – but just a little.
- Remind cheating people of their morality – they cheat less!
- The more distance people have from their benefit, the more they cheat.
- If you experience cheating as part of your (social) group, cheating goes up!