Dan Ariely’s work called into question

In my teaching work and on this blog, I have often referred favorably to the work of behavioral economist Dan Ariely who devised ingenious experiments to tease out human behaviors and motivations. (See here for the posts where I have discussed his work.) I have recommended his book Predictably Irrational which, as the title succinctly suggests, argued that while people are often irrational, their irrationality is not random. He has also given very popular TED talks.

A lot of his research dealt with the issue of honesty: what corners people are willing to cut, by how much, and how they view themselves. So I was disappointed to read that he may the latest example of an academic who has been sloppy or worse in the way that he has conducted his research, throwing his work into doubt.
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The durability of America’s false self-image

The forcible separation of children, even those who are toddlers, from their parents at the borders and putting them in cages seems to threaten the Trump administration with being a step too far. The photographs and videos of the grim sight and the newly released heartbreaking audio recordings by ProPublica of children sobbing uncontrollably and calling for their parents seems to be too much to stomach for even some of Trump’s most ardent supporters. Even the evangelical zealot, Trump fan boy, and outright bigot Franklin Graham who had hitherto not allowed any daylight between him and Trump said “It’s disgraceful, and it’s terrible to see families ripped apart, and I don’t support that one bit.” Laura Bush has also come out against it, as have some other conservatives. Big majorities oppose these actions, with the only demographic group supporting it being Republicans.
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Corruption experiment

Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist about whom I have written many times before because he devises interesting experiments to test social values and behavior. He has done several experiments that looked at cheating and in the video below he talks about another one that seems to address the question that I posed two weeks ago about how openly unethical behavior at the top of the Trump administration might affect those lower down.
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The allure of free stuff

Growing up I recall people frequently saying that Sri Lankans would take anything if it were given to them free, including a cold. It turns out that Sri Lankans may not be the only ones who are drawn irresistibly to free things. Dan Greenstone, a lover of books and the possessor of many, has a hilarious article about what happened with his wife’s gift to him of a Little Free Library, a concept to increase literacy that is popular in many neighborhoods, where people set up a box in a public place stocked with books where any passerby can take a book and replace it with another.
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Is the US a nation of secret socialists?

Dan Ariely of Duke Business School is quite ingenious when it comes to devising experiments to determine how people think and what drives their decision making when it comes to economic matters. In his entertaining book Predictably Irrational, he challenged the traditional notion of economists that people are rational actors on the economic stage, making decisions in their own best interest. Instead he argues that people are irrational (i.e., not really thinking things through to get the best result for themselves) but irrational in a predictable way.
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On wealth-2

(Part 1 can be seen here.)

One of the odd things that I have found about America is how many people are willing to fight to protect the interests of the very wealthy, even though they themselves are nowhere close to attaining that level of income, and where the efforts by a few to acquires such wealth adversely affects them. Some are willing to defend the rampant greed that resulted in practices the led to the recent financial collapse. “Joe the Plumber”, “Tito the Builder” and others like them were notable figures during the last election campign that belonged to this category. During the recent tea parties protesting Obama’s tax policies, a demonstrator was asked whether he earned more than $250,000. When he said that he earned much, much less, he was asked why he was protesting since his taxes would be lowered. He said that he hoped to become wealthy some day and thus was looking out for his future interests, however unlikely that may be.
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The future of the Republican Party-7: Why don’t the Christianists ♥ Huckabee?

Mike Huckabee, who saw himself as the real deal, is understandably peeved at the way he was treated by the very people who should have embraced his candidacy and been his most ardent supporters. A review of his just released memoir shows that he is willing to name names:

Many conservative Christian leaders — who never backed Huckabee, despite their holding similar stances on social issues — are spared neither the rod nor the lash. Huckabee writes of Gary Bauer, the conservative Christian leader and former presidential candidate, as having an “ever-changing reason to deny me his support.” Of one private meeting with Bauer, Huckabee says, “It was like playing Whac-a-Mole at the arcade — whatever issue I addressed, another one surfaced as a ‘problem’ that made my candidacy unacceptable.” He also accuses Bauer of putting national security before bedrock social issues like the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.
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Government of the Dow, by the Dow, for the Dow

The recent financial crisis and the frantic (and finally successful) attempt by the government and Wall Street to strong-arm the public to provide immediate relief to the very institutions that caused the crisis is striking evidence, if anyone needed it, of exactly for whose benefit the government is run: Wall Street. You can ignore all the blather about how this bailout was needed to prevent ordinary people from financial ruin. That may or may not be true. What is indubitable is that if Wall Street interests were not at stake, nothing would have been done.

As was clearly evident in the past week, while the government can drag its feet for decades, say it is too expensive, and take no action to solve urgent problems like health care, when it comes to giving away nearly a trillion dollars to the financial industry, it can act with lightning speed. And you can be sure that when this money runs out (as it surely will as Wall Street institutions get their greedy hands on it) and next financial ‘crisis’ appears, we will be asked to cough up even more, and told that otherwise the sacrifices we have already made will be ‘wasted’. This is the same argument given for continuing the war in Iraq.
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