Wired recently conducted an interview with Dan Ariely, professor of behavior economics and psychology at Duke University. Here are the highlights:
On cheating: The curious thing is that what stops us, doesn’t stop us from doing everything. We have a fudge factor, we have an ability to rationalize some dishonesty and as long as we cheat just a little bit, we can still rationalize it.
On people who go to prison for cheating: …people who were going to commit a crime would say, ‘Okay, I’ll go to prison, not worth it.’ I’ve been talking to big cheaters, including people who have been to prison, and I tell you, nobody I’ve talked to has ever thought about the long-term consequences of their actions.
On taxes: I think people should work on their taxes first thing in the morning.
On repentance: What if we allowed our bankers and politicians to start fresh? Now if you think that people basically want to be good, as long as you remind them about it, that means that a confessional process could actually allow people to achieve that. Because if you behave badly for a while, if it’s a slippery slope, there’s basically no way for you to reset.
In Catholicism, you as the sinner decide when to confess. In Judaism it’s once a year, outside of your control. The second difference is that in Judaism, because it’s a fixed day, everybody confesses at the same time. So there’s a social coordination mechanism.