Lunch with Dr. Ariely

Dr. Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, graciously welcomed members of the Honor Council community into his office for a luncheon and conversation on January 25.

To stimulate dynamic discussion, Dr. Ariely first engaged with questions from the audience regarding moral dilemmas on campus. One topic that came up often in conversation was the idea of comparable human values. Dr. Ariely claims that the average person values outcome over process, which leads to a series of harmful choices such as lying or corruption. Specifically, honesty and friendship were brought up as two contradicting human values when applied to academic integrity. Students in attendance questioned whether staying silent to protect their friends is more “right” than the lies they would have to tell. In response, Dr. Ariely warned students about the effects of convincing themselves that good will result from lies, explaining that dishonesty and corruption are infectious. On college campuses, where students tend to follow the “accepted behavior” around them, this can be especially detrimental.

In addition to academic integrity, Dr. Ariely explored questions related to the recent election, relationships, and behavioral studies he had previously conducted. A particularly memorable study questioned how often subjects lied depending on whether an authority figure was corrupt or not. Unsurprisingly, those who didn’t respect the researcher were much more likely to lie in order to obtain their goal. This applies directly to life on campus as well; those who don’t feel like administration can “control” them or have seen others’ detrimental actions go unnoticed are much more likely to act against regulations. Honor council members encourage students to speak up if they see behavior they’re uncomfortable with on campus; an active change of campus culture can only happen with the help of those who care to improve it. Thank you to all those who came out to Dr. Ariely’s luncheon, and continue to engage in thought on the ethical dilemmas around you!

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