You know those honesty pledges when filling forms? Ones which say something like, "All the matter here is true to the best of my knowledge" or a variation of that?

Did you know that if that pledge were to be placed at the top of the paper rather than at the end, people would be more honest in their revelations? If you did, you were agreeing with the research done by some academicians in 2012 in a study of dishonesty on which many businesses rely.

Now it turns out the study of dishonesty was dishonest. How delicious is that? Such irony! The man who wrote Romeo and Juliet should be living at this hour! You can’t get more meta than that, unless it is the researcher in the study of executions having his head cut off or a scientist studying spiders and other insects discovering that a spider is not an insect at all.

And what about those who discovered the dishonesty? Were they honest? Let us assume they were, and thus we have an honest investigation into the dishonesty of a study of dishonesty. If they were dishonest… you do the math.

And what of the original researcher who covered up the dishonesty? Surely he is being dishonest in his coverup of his dishonesty in a study of dishonesty?

Honestly (and dishonestly), my head is beginning to spin, as I suspect yours is too.

Who are the researchers, you ask (in case this looks suspiciously like I am making up the whole thing)? Among them is a behavioural economist from Duke University, and a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. I guess the book based on the research, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, will now have to be moved into the fiction section in bookstores and libraries.

I have long been uncomfortable with books that tell us how human beings behave or are likely to behave in various situations and develop whole theories apparently true for all time. I don’t know how I will behave given a specific situation, leave alone how someone else will.

But this genre is large, the writing is attractive to the point of being glib and it has made millionaires of the authors. Apart from self-help books and cook books, this type of book is most likely to become a best-seller.

I have nothing against people becoming millionaires, but even without the manipulation, there is something incomplete about such convenient assertions. Even if the research is honest and even scientific, interpretations may be wrong. There is usually an alternative version to be had which meets the fact equally.

If honesty is the best policy, dishonesty seems to be the second best.

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