Yet another interesting talk on Ted, this time about cheating. You can skip the first four and a half minutes if you want, they really aren’t relevant to the talk (unless you want to know how you should remove a bandaid!). A summary on Dan’s points:
- It is more likely that a lot of people cheat a little than a few people cheat a lot
- People are unsensitive to economic incentives for cheating, such as an increased possible gain and decreased chance of getting caught.
- If reminded of morality, people cheat less
- If others in their group are cheating, people cheat more
- If others not in their group are cheating, people cheat less
- The further removed people are from money, the more likely they are to cheat
- If there is a deadline after which something is unusable, people are more likely to steal it
Dan explanation for the first point is that that people want to few good about themselves, but they still want to gain from cheating. If they cheat too much, then they can’t few good about themselves, but if they just cheat a little then they can benefit, and still feel good about themselves.
He doesn’t explain the other points though, and I also disagree with his explanation, so here’s what I think, from his observations:
- His first two observations are the result of the balancing of possible gains of cheating against the probability of getting caught, the possible punishments and the unhappiness caused by the act of cheating. I emphasise this because in the video, Dan does not consider this an economic incentive.
- Lots of people cheat a little because most people think that the gains brought by cheating is greater than the little chance of getting caught and the little punishment you’re going to get for stealing so little. We will also not feel as bad about ourselves because we can self justify (its only a little, no one will miss it!).
- On the otherhand, few people cheat a lot because they feel gains do not outvalue the chance of getting caught, the possible punishments, and the guilt that they will feel.
- One thing to to note is that the rewards for cheating his experiment seems to have used goes only up to the hundreds. I theorize that that once the possible rewards is very high (perhaps a million), more people would cheat at high amounts, as they begin to view possible gains outweighing the possible costs.
- Another thing to note is that different people have different ways of judging all of these factors. For example, someone might have little guilt over cheating, and another might feel cheating is so bad, they will never ever cheat even if offered a billion dollars.
- Not just the person comitting the crime, but the situation and the enviroment will so affect cheating patterns.
- We can decrease cheating by decreasing perceived gain, increasing perceived chance of getting caught, punishment and unhappiness caused by cheating.
- We can increase cheating by increasing perceived gain, decreasing perceived chance of getting caught, punishment and unhappiness caused by cheating.
So here’s what I think can be done to decrease/increase cheating:
- Give little/much to gain from cheating
- Create an impression that if someone cheats, they will/will not get caught
- Create stricter/more lenient punishments for cheating
- Give/don’t give rewards for not cheating
- Emphasize/deemphasize what can be lost by cheating
- Emphasize/deemphasize morality
- Emphasize/deemphasize that what they are dealing with is important to others and or themselves
- Emphasize success by not cheating/cheating
- Emphasize a group mentality for not cheating/cheating
- Emphasize (negatively/positively) other groups cheating
- Keep/not keep others’ personal vendettas against you at a minimum
- Avoid ticking clock scenarios, where if someone doesn’t cheat, something goes to waste.
Note that I use the word ‘cheat’ in a broad sense. It can be applied to something as backing out of a deal to outright betrayal. Also, this list is probably not exhaustive, because there are endless justifications a person can use to not feel bad when cheating. But at least if you follow the list, cheating can be minimized, or vide versa.