How honest am I? And the people I know? What affects our honesty? I am halfway through Dan Ariely’s book on that very subject.
A simple experiment: I take a test and have to self-report the number of problems I got right, and get paid based on the number I got right, what affects my honesty? In their studies, people average 4 right, but self-report 6. This answer doesn’t vary with the amount that people are paid, or whether they are told that the average score is 4 or 8.
“Distance” from the action does. For example, people are more likely to move their golf ball with a club than to pick it up and carry it to a preferred location. People who will be paid in tokens, and then walk 12′ to exchange the tokens for money, lie about twice as much.
On the other hand, promises to tell the truth seem to reduce cheating to near zero. This doesn’t work for generic promises, even if the promises were discussed at great length in religious school or ethics class. A simple signature that these numbers are accurate before the form is filled out, and voila!
What else is important to (dis)honesty? What kind of ethics training, if any, do you believe can lead to more honesty?