It’s been quite a week for the Fudge Factor as Dr. Dan Ariely professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University labels “stretching the truth.” From major companies to politicians, recent news stories have pointed out more than a few potential incidents that illustrate Dr. Ariely’s work in the book he authored, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty — How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves and the film, (Dis)Honesty — The Truth About Lies.
Dr. Ariely, whom I wrote about in a recent post, points out that’s it just plain old human nature to lie.
As I referenced, he asked, “Who lies more, politicians or bankers?” And while Dr. Ariely concluded that bankers lie twice as much as politicians, it sure looks as if politicians may be edging up. Of course, the comments made recently by Exxon Mobil and presidential candidates Ben Carson and Hillary Clinton may just be because of faulty memory, or embellishments, or omissions – not necessarily lying. But as Ariely describes the fudge factor, there does appear to be a significant layer of rationalization between what appears to be the truth and the fudge factor.
Take Exxon Mobil. Did Exxon hide the risks of CO2 and its potential impact on climate change in its public reports? Attorney General Eric. T. Schneiderman (New York) has started an investigation to get to the truth .The inquiries focus on what has been Exxon’s public stance on climate change and its filing with federal regulators, and its internal knowledge about the risks to its global oil business if the government limited the use of fossil fuels.
Former Vice President Al Gore and Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson, among others, believe that Exxon’s casting doubt on climate change research are comparable to the tobacco industries’ campaign to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not singling out Ben Carson, and I’m sure not picking on him. Same for Hillary Clinton, but it’s kind of ironic that both have been in the limelight lately, accused of maybe, the fudge factor?
As Carson tells it, he is under attack by several media sources, from Politico to the Wall Street Journal, Fox and CNN and others, for the inconsistencies in his various stories, which have been published in several books and in numerous speeches in the last 25 years or so.
What is the truth about the psychology test hoax, and his receiving $10 for being honest, or the attack on white students that he deterred by sheltering them from their black high school classmates, the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed?
Did he have a gun shoved into his ribs at a Popeye’s restaurant while at John Hopkins, among other “recollections” he tells and writes about?
Carson has accused the media of singling him out by attacking him. “Show me somebody, even from your business, the media, who is 100 percent accurate in everything that they say that happened 40 or 50 years ago,” he said on This Week.
Carson has also countered, with, “You know, when you write a book with a co-writer and you say that there was a class, a lot of time they’ll put a number or something just to give it more meat. You know, obviously, decades later, I’m not going to remember the course number.”
Carson suggests his ghostwriter may have put comments in his books that may not have been 100% accurate.
And, with all due respect, Mr. Carson’s memory and these incidents are indeed a while back and memory does play tricks on us. However the list goes on. There’s Mannatech, Inc, a Texas based company which was indicted for false advertisement in 2009. While Carson claims he had absolutely no involvement with them, records show he and his charities received contributions for several speeches he gave for them, and he was featured on a few of their promotional videos as well.
However, political candidates can recover from “embellishments.” Hillary Clinton certainly did. Isn’t it ironic, that Exxon is also being questioned by Clinton? Remember Bosnia? On March 25, 1996, Hillary remembers landing in Bosnia, under sniper fire. “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”
However the news footage of her arrival at Tuzla shows Clinton, then the first lady, calmly walking from the rear ramp of a U.S. Air Force plane with her daughter, Chelsea, then 16, at her side. The video shows Clinton spending several minutes talking with the group, including an 8-year-old Bosnian girl who presented her with a poem, and later greeting U.S. troops. They did not appear rushed.
During the 2008 campaign, Clinton mentioned the sniper fire at least twice, “I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement,” she said. Hmmm, and then there are questions about her more recent email server story. But, enough said.
As Ariely says, the “fudge factor “is responsible for quite a bit. In his book, he mentions news icon Dan Rather: ”With teary eyes and shaky voice, the longtime journalist described his own career in the military, even though he had never made it out of basic training.”
Now that’s another irony, considering Dan Rather resigned from 60 Minutes shortly after the President Bush National Guard Killian documents controversy, that he and his producer, Mary Mapes, reported on. She was canned. The story is now a movie, entitled, ironically, “Truth.”
Dr. Ariely asks, “Could it be that when we lie publicly, the recorded lie acts as an attachment marker that reminds us of our false achievements and helps cement the fiction into the fabric of our lives?”
He adds,”We all seek our own advantages as we make our way through the world.”
So do we start to believe our stories? Well, as his studies show, if we lie, and then have to lie more to get the same adrenaline effect, it might just appear that is the case.
[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1MYKmAd”]If we lie, we have to lie more. Is it so? ~@RichardMBowen #ethics[/tweetthis]