Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dade County Chronicles: Dishonesty

I was driving around in traffic this evening listening to NPR. On the local Miami affiliate they had two experts on lying to promote the new documentary "Dishonesty." Over the course of an hour they went through different levels of dishonesty in society. I wanted to call up friends and tell my mom to tune in, but I thought it was better for me to just listen to what was being said and to think about it. Listeners called up with their own questions, one confessed to being an alcoholic, while others asked if lying is happening in greater quantity and/or higher quality today.

Behavioral psychologist Dan Ariely was on talking about lying and how technology makes lying easier in a few ways
1) the more abstract the victim of the lie is the more likely someone is to lie
2) the more abstract the money is (office supplies, bitcoin) the greater someone lies
3) the more technology is involved the greater the abstraction of reality, and the greater chance to lie
4) people are more likely to lie if they feel like it's a good cause
5) people are more likely to lie if they're in the presence of a loved one or on behalf of someone
6) only if the someone is face-to-face with a victim are they less likely to lie. So our society is always finding ways to isolate people from each other in lines of productions, distribution, and dissemination.
7) people who say 'they never lie' are almost always lying.
8) in a 10 min conversation with an average person will say approximately 2 1/2 lies (some times more, some times less).

I thought about lying after 2015 and the year of police shooting. Almost 1,000 civilians have been killed by police officers this year. Some of the police testimony has been contradicted only because of body cameras and phone cameras that show what's going on. In almost all cases the police officer initially lies and commits to the same pattern of lies 1) they felt threatened 2) he/she was reaching for weapon or perceived weapon or 3) they were lunging and 4) they felt scared. In 99% of the cases the DA believes this claim even when videotape evidence contradicts this directly. Ariely said this is when lies become corruption: when we know a group is consistently lying but don't care. In high-pressure academic institution grade corruption is common. Students cheat and steal answer keys. Teachers turn a blind eye and corruption becomes a part of the system. Police officers commit a crime, get coached by their union representative, say all the right lies. Grand juries, judges, and attorneys collude with the lies.

Why collude with a lie. The experts said lies do several things. Lies make people feel better about themselves or their surroundings, they help acquire capital or services. But lies are also a maintenance program. We start lying to maintain a principle which doesn't hold up in reality. We lie to bridge the gap between the truth and our perception of truth. Once that justification becomes apart of our value system then so does lying in order to maintain an ecosystem. The proverbial 'slippery slope' happens when the lying increases in quantity or the type of lie becomes more extreme in quality. And then anything is possible. Lying to get into Harvard, becomes lying to a degree, becomes stealing information to get ahead at a job.

I sat in the driveway listening to the radio. I feel like this is a conversation we should be having as a society. 

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