Flexible Morality of User Engagement & User Behavior


  1. This session Dan Arieli and Sarah Szalavitz investigate the relationship between morality and user engagement online, as well as in real life.
  2. Dan is great at research but Sarah's strength is getting people to do things which is why she has devised the questionnaire for the experiment for this session which is takes 10 minutes to fill out. Quite a challenge.

    What is the difference between cheating and dishonesty?

    Gary Becker's Standard Model of cheating in economics says that 'Every time we get the chance to cheat we do a cont benefit analysis', which Dan disagrees with. Dan thinks we all have a fudge factor; A level of dishonesty that we are happy with e.g. receipts for food.
  3. Dan did a test in which he asked the participants to put their test papers in the shredders after they had finished. What they didn't know was that the shredder was rigged to only shred the sides of the paper. In the test of 25,000 people who took part 12 cheated a lot and 15,000 cheated a little bit.

    In a further test when people were asked to remember the 10 commandments before the test less people cheated. When we are reminded of our own morality before a test we become more honest. Put the honor code before and you will get more honest results.
  4. Getting the balance between being good and cheating is difficult. We all start out wanting to be good but the balance can be tipped quite easily. When you get past a certain level of cheating you end up going the whole way. It's called the 'What The Hell Effect'.

    A kid comes home from school and tells the dad he has been expelled for stealing pencils. The dad tells him off and says 'if you ever want pencils just ask me, I can get loads of them from work'. The more removed we are from money the less we consider the act to be cheating. This is what happens with mortgage backed securities - when multi-steps are removed from money, people will cheat more.
  5. While men perhaps cheat more in general, women who cheat are more likely to cheat across all domains. Cheating for money correlates very poorly with all other domains. It seems to be it's own domain. In general terms there's a very high correlation between general intelligence & cheating - apart from in sex.
  6. Confession is really good for the What The Hell Effect. When you give people the chance to confess cheating goes down. Unfortunately it effect eventually diminishes and you sin again.

    Who does confession better? Catholics or Jews? In Catholicism you get to choose when you confess. In Judaism you confess once a year. Which one of those works better?
  7. The personality trait in the person most likely to cheat is being creative because they people are better able to tell stories and lie about themselves.
  8. In 'Predictably Irrational' Dan talked about a study in which he discovered that people wearing fake sunglasses are more likely to lie. You can see him talking more about the test in the video below.