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The Flexible Influences of Cheating

By Dan Ariely | TED | March 17, 2009

In this TED talk, behavioral economist Dan Ariely explores the bugs in our moral code: the hidden reasons we think it's okay to cheat or steal (sometimes). In cases such as the financial crisis, was the problem a few bad apples or something more endemic? Ariely finds that in most situations a lot of people cheat a little, and that there are predictable ways to influence honesty.

When test subjects are reminded of morality, cheating drops. When subjects are distanced from the object of reward—for example, by replacing money with redeemable tokens—cheating increases. When other members of your social group cheat, you are more likely to cheat as well.

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