I recently watched a documentary “(Dis) Honesty: The Truth About Lies” and realized we as market researchers, can increase the honest and accurate responses from our participants. The film suggests asking participants to recall the 10 commandments.  This simple exercise eliminated cheating in all participants regardless of religious belief or affiliation. Why don’t we add a moral question or statement of personal responsibility at beginning of all of our studies?  How simple.  The alternative has proven to be destructive. Punishing “bad” behavior has been the norm in most societies for 100’s of years.  This approach doesn’t do anything to curb wrongdoing.  Evidence indicates quite the opposite. For example, in the United States of America, the state prison inmate population has increased 700% since the 1970’s while the overall citizen population has increased a mere 60%.  The average cost to each taxpayer for housing one prisoner in a state prison is about $32,000. These figures are state prison populations only and do not take into account local and federal correction facilities. It’s estimated that in the USA, $1,000,000, millions or one trillion dollars are paid in bribes and $270 billion of income is not reported each year. The 2015 cost of retail theft was around $60 billion dollars.  Retailers pass on these losses to the consumer by raising the price of goods and services. Equally important is the social cost of dishonesty.  As our moral expectations of each other decrease, unethical behavior increases. “Insights from the growing field of moral psychology and behavioral ethics show that people care about morality”.  Further, “…most people make an effort to resist temptation and try to behave honestly (Aquino & Reed, 2002)“. According to the psychological model of dishonesty, people are caught between a rock and a hard place—that is, between the temptation to profit from unethical behavior and the desire to maintain a positive moral image of themselves. This internal conflict—creates severe psychological tension and threatens people’s self-concept and moral identity (Ayal & Gino, 2011; Barkan, Ayal, Gino, & Ariely, 2012).   By inserting subtle ques into our surveys that encourage moral behavior, we will begin to reverse the downward spiral of the society in which we live. At a minimum, reminding people of the benefits of honesty will actually improve personal accountability and trustworthiness.


Film – “(Dis) Honesty: The Truth About Lies” – http://thedishonestyproject.com/film/

The Dishonesty Project – http://thedishonestyproject.com/

Three Principles to REVISE People’s Unethical Behavior – http://pps.sagepub.com/content/10/6/738.full.pdf+html

The self-importance of moral identity – https://business.illinois.edu/business-administration/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2014/09/reed_paper.pdf

Honest rationales for dishonest behavior – http://static1.squarespace.com/static/55dcde36e4b0df55a96ab220/t/55e5e6efe4b0d3b9ddaa21d9/1441130223617/Ayal+Gino+chapter.pdf

The pot calling the kettle black: Distancing response to ethical dissonance – https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/11320607/barkan,ayal,gino,ariely_the-pot-calling-the-kettle.pdf?sequence=1

The Price of Prisons, What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers – https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/the-price-of-prisons-what-incarceration-costs-taxpayers/legacy_downloads/price-of-prisons-updated-version-021914.pdf

Jack L. Hayes International’s 28th Annual Retail Theft Survey – http://hayesinternational.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/28th-Annual-Retail-Theft-Survey-PR-Stats-Thoughts1.pdf

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