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Rabu, 04 Maret 2009

Integrity Again

Inspired by Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational
Chapter 11: The Context of Our Character, Part I: Why We Are Dishonest, and What We Can Do about It

Our global teachers, like the prophets, already taught us that we must have integrity. Only integrity can ensure our long-term relationships with whomever. Not only relationships, all dimensions of life are very dependent on integrity. Perhaps, you still remember when Doel's father (Benyamin S) told his beloved son (Rano Karno) to hold this virtue. "Kan gue udah bilang: jujur, jujur, jujur!" If you still don't recall that scene, you may want to consider watching Doel Anak Sekolahan once again. The strange thing is that we always tend to compromise our integrity despite all good things we know about it.

I want to trust you. I believe you want the same thing too for me. So... we consider ourselves as integrated persons. Basically good men, women, boys, and girls. If we are on the street, it is very unlikely we would commit to pick pocketing. It is also very unlikely that a CEO would commit to a robbery. Those acts are so wicked that good persons like you, me, and the CEO really hate them. But suppose you were the CEO of scandalous Enron. Would you still hate stealing money from your stakeholders? Ah, stealing money is such a mean term that you instantly would reject the idea. What if I change stealing money with window dressing?

OK, we compromise our integrity if it comes to window dressing things. Statistics already showed us that our misconducts related to window dressing couldn’t be negligible. Someone has even his gut saying that corporate criminals are far more serious than street criminals in numbers. If it is not the case, the Anticorruption Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi) will have no job to do. Right?

Now we are good persons, sitting in a classroom. We are taking a math exam. Suppose, normally, when cheating is not possible (group or condition #1), we will get 30% right answers. Hehehe, quite dumb. Then, suppose that cheating is possible (group or condition #2). Are we all integrated as good persons? Or will we give up for higher scores? In another condition, suppose that cheating is possible and getting caught is not possible (group or condition #3). Will we give up our values even more? Probably we spontaneously say we wouldn't! Really?

Dan Ariely experimented in Harvard, MIT, and other top universities a kind of experiments described above. The results are consistent. When cheating is possible (group or condition #2), we human tend to cheat a little bit. Even when getting caught is impossible (group or condition #3), we as good persons just cheat a little bit. There is a chance, though, really bad persons cheat all the way 100%. It seems that our inner values can restrain us, but not completely. Probably, we need to be reminded on the spot for our complete self-restraint to work.

Dan Ariely actually used the Ten Commandments in his next experiment. The test takers were grouped into four. The first three groups were basically the same as described above. The fourth group was the same as the third, but on the spot was asked to write down the Ten Commandments. The result? First group, the control group, answered about 3 questions correctly out of 20. The second and third answered close to 6 questions correctly. Did they cheat? Dan had to conclude they did. Strikingly, the result of the fourth group was no different from the first group, the control group.

Hence, the Ten Commandments were proved to be powerful deterrent to cheating, although some of the test takers were even not able to write down the Ten Commandments correctly. What can we learn from here? If possible, the authority can make the environment more religious. That kind of context is not cheating friendly. Tasikmalaya have applied this principle in the streets for many years. Average drivers would temper themselves when prompted with subhanalLah, alhamdulillLah, and Allahuakbar! If Tasik can create a simple good context, why can't we? Our homes, our offices, our markets, our public space all need to be surrounded with a divine context.

Next: A Joke about Our Culture
Prev: Expensive yet Effective Placebo

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