Dan Ariely (@danariely) is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and bestselling author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations.
What We Discuss with Dan Ariely:
- How does the What the Hell effect keep us making bad decisions even when we know they’re bad?
- Are we ever truly rational, unbiased, or impartial?
- What’s the best time to appear before a judge?
- How transparency in our lives can often backfire.
- How motivation works (and doesn’t work) and how we can use our own psychology against ourselves.
- And so much more…
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We may think of ourselves as logical and reasonable, going through motions governed by what we believe to be right. But if we were to examine them under a microscope, would our motivations prove to be composed of a rational framework, or are there invisible, inscrutable reasons for our behavior even we can’t explain?
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations joins The Jordan Harbinger Show to help us better understand the invisible (and often frustrating) clockwork that makes us tick.
Listen to this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show in its entirety to learn more about how Dan keeps structured procrastination in check when writing books, how to better understand (and appreciate) the journey of thinking, how implementation intention keeps us making fuzzy plans that never really go anywhere, how a calendar might still be one of the best productivity tools around (especially when augmented with hacks that help you utilize — instead of waste — the most productive hours of the day), why we experience cancel elation, how externally defined identity rules help us adhere to discipline in a way we won’t on our own, why even the best of us lie and cheat sometimes, and lots more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss our episode with Arthur Brooks about the merits of learning to love your enemies (especially during these divisive times)? Catch up by listening to episode 211: Arthur Brooks | How Loving Your Enemies Can Save America here!
THANKS, DAN ARIELY!
If you enjoyed this session with Dan, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
- (Dis)Honesty — The Truth About Lies (Dan’s Documentary)
- Dan Ariely | Website
- Dan Ariely | Facebook
- Dan Ariely | Twitter
- Dan Ariely: Are We in Control of Our Own Decisions? | TED Talk
- Google Acquires Timeful to Bring Smart Scheduling to Google Apps | TechCrunch
Transcript for Dan Ariely | The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations (Episode 417)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
Dan Ariely: [00:00:03] If somebody is asking you to do something a year from now, ask yourself whether you will do it next week. And then there's another approach, which is we use the term, cancel elation. The happiness you get when something was canceled. So when somebody asks you to do something, you simulate in your mind, how happy would you be if the day before they canceled. You're going to be very busy next year, just like you are today. Just the details are not written. We understand the opportunity cost of time today. Like, if you asked me to do something else today, I can't. I'm booked solid. There's no way — 2018, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:39] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. If you're new to the show, we have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, psychologists, even the occasional behavioral economist or money-laundering expert. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:05] Today. We're talking with behavioral economist and bestselling author, Dan Ariely. You should listen to this episode if you want to learn how our brains make decisions and more importantly, why we decide the things we do. Of course, we're never truly rational, unbiased, or impartial, even if it's our job to do just that. We'll also see what time it is best to go before a judge and why transparency in our lives can often backfire. Last, but not least how motivation works, how it doesn't work, and how we can use our own psychology against ourselves for good. Dan is an OG in this space. If you haven't heard of him, you're going to love this episode. And of course, if you know who he is, you're going to be excited for this. So I won't keep you too much longer.
[00:01:43] But if you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, and celebrities every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company. Now, here's Dan Ariely.
[00:02:06] This is something with my behavior — and I don't know if it's all humans — where if something goes wrong in the morning, it takes a lot of effort for me to get unflustered later on in the day. So if I wake up, like I did this morning at 4:45 a.m. for a radio appearance, and then I try to go back to sleep. That's the cardinal mistake. Once I try to go back to sleep, if that doesn't work, I end up stressing about not being able to sleep, and then that will carry through and then going into traffic and everything. It's just like — this morning I woke up and Jen is like, "Are you okay?" And I'm like, "It's just like one thing after another." I feel like there's a skill, especially in a business that you have to have, which I am currently developing where you are able to unfluster yourself very, very quickly. Otherwise, you'll just get washed down the drain with every little problem that pops up.
Dan Ariely: [00:02:52] Yeah. And there's a couple of versions of the story that you could have that have different mechanisms. So one is falling asleep, right? What happens if you wake up and you try to fall asleep? And there's actually really interesting research showing that when people try to fall asleep, they interpret the difficulty as an indication that something is wrong?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:10] Oh, really? Ah, gosh.
Dan Ariely: [00:03:12] So all of sudden — it's not just that you fall asleep, you say, "Oh, why can't I fall asleep?" And these thoughts are making it harder and harder to fall asleep. But this idea of reselling, in general, is very, very important. So, in reselling, it can be in lots of scales. There's this notion called the what-the-hell effect.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:26] What-the-hell effect?
Dan Ariely: [00:03:27] What-the-hell effect — people mostly know these effects from dieting, right? That you're on a diet, you're on a strict diet, and then you eat a muffin.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:35] Oh, I see.
Dan Ariely: [00:03:35] And you say to yourself, "I'm not on a diet. I might as well have a burger and fries —"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:40] Right
Dan Ariely: [00:03:40] "— and a milkshake for lunch and then a chocolate cake for dinner." And the notion is that we view ourselves in a binary way, either good or bad. And if you're 92 percent good, you can still think of yourself as a good category.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:52] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:03:53] But if you're 78 percent good, is it really worth the effort to move to 92 percent?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:57] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:03:58] So basically what happens is that, as long as we're not on the good side, we say, "What the hell?" Because we don't enjoy the middle ground. The middle ground is not helping us define who we are. So we find this in dishonesty. It's when people start behaving badly, continuing is very easy. We find it in dieting. We find it's failing in all kinds of ways. You know, there are these religious mechanisms that get you to restart this. Think about the Catholic confession.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:24] Oh yeah, there you go.
Dan Ariely: [00:04:26] What's the logic of the Catholic confession?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:27] Clean slate.
Dan Ariely: [00:04:28] That's right. You could say it's a crazy mechanism, right? Because if you know that you can sin and get absolved, what should you do?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:35] Right. Just go for it.
Dan Ariely: [00:04:37] And not only that, just go for it just before confession, right? Because you minimize time in purgatory, right? If the mindset was the only thing I want to do is not to die without confession. Still, on the way to confession, you set it up. Of course, that's not how confession works. Confession works by restarting a new page. And we do this at night, right? Where each day is a new day with calories. Nature doesn't count calories by the day. That if you ate a muffin in the morning, whatever you're doing in the afternoon is still in the same category. That's why New Year is an important thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:09] Oh, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:05:10] There's all these questions of how do we reset it. In Judaism, there is a day of atonement. So that's all on the dishonesty side, but I think it's a much more general thing that if you're in the rut, what can you do to reset? And if you just say, "Let me reset." I don't think that's going to work. You need some kind of ritual, some kind of statement, and then try something different. So if I were you and you kind of early in the morning, discover you're in a rut, do something different, go for a run, do 10 pushups.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:42] I usually work out. Yeah, I usually work out if it's in the middle of the day. If it's 8:00 p.m. I just go, "All right. A lot of things are going wrong today. They don't need to be solved today. I can just go to bed early and then I'll get up early the next day and I'll have more time and a clean slate to take care of everything."
Dan Ariely: [00:05:56] Yeah. Clean slate is interesting. And you know, we've done some experiments on this, on this honesty in particular, when we get people to cheat and then we change how they cheat and we give them a chance to confess. And it turns out that the two elements of confession. Admitting what you've done wrong and asking for forgiveness are both crucial. You need both of them. So you say, "Here's what I did wrong. Sorry. Let me start fresh." Those help and we don't have enough of those mechanisms in civic society. Right? We don't —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:26] Why do you think that is?
Dan Ariely: [00:06:27] Because I don't think we have the intuition of the separation of the self. I mean, we have some of that intuition around New Year's resolution.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:34] Sure. But we don't have enough of that intuition that says, "I can put the stop and say my past self is not an indication necessarily of where I'm going to be." I think the intuition is that we are a much more continuous self and if we understand this, we can take these somehow artificial gaps and restart. We would use it more often.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:54] Yeah. It seems like a trick. I should've learned decades ago that when I'm having an off day workout and reset. Or I'd like to say I don't have off days that often, but I do work from home. I'm able to recover or an off day seems a little bit less of a low because I'm not in front of a lot of people until I do something like this. And then you see your mistakes are highlighted kind of, even for yourself. Whereas if something goes wrong and no one's around and I can fix it quietly, it doesn't seem like a big problem. When you're late for your own thing and nobody knows no big deal. When you're late and people go, "Look, man, I got crap to do today. What's your problem? Then you go, "Okay, maybe I need to get it back together." It becomes harder.
Dan Ariely: [00:07:31] By the way. It's not just about other people observing, it's about the awareness more generally. So we find, for example, that if people work in front of a mirror, they're less dishonest. We find that if you have — this was an experiment that was done in England, where they had kind of an honor coffee bar.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:49] Ah, okay. So you pay on your own.
Dan Ariely: [00:07:51] You pay on your own and tell you what amount is, and they changed the pictures above the money collection box.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:58] Ah okay.
Dan Ariely: [00:07:59] And sometimes it was a picture of eyes and sometimes a picture of flowers. And people left three times more money when it was a picture of eyes. Now, when you see a picture of eyes, you don't think to yourself, "Ooh, somebody is looking."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:10] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:08:10] You don't confuse that this is a camera or something like that. But there is an awareness of the outside perspective. You all of a sudden kind of become more aware to yourself. Think about walking in front of a big display window where you can actually see your shadow or a reflection of yourself. There's an increased awareness of ourselves and it gets us to behave very differently.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:33] Huh.
Dan Ariely: [00:08:33] Actually lots of behaviors, it's as if we're turning a slightly blind eye to our own behavior. You ask people how healthy were you? What have you done? We kind of delude ourselves very quickly that we are much nicer and —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:47] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:08:48] — healthier.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:48] I mean, story of everybody's life, right?
Dan Ariely: [00:08:51] That's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:51] "How did you eat last week?" "Oh, it was pretty healthy." "Well, I'm okay. I went to McDonald's like three times. Well, I drank, but that was the weekend. So that doesn't really count in my answer." And there's all kinds of things like that.
Dan Ariely: [00:09:02] That's right. And the moment you have kind of the outside perspective, your accountability increase —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:07] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:09:08] — a little bit. People behave better. Look at undergrads — we did some studies on productivity. Undergrads rarely study in the dorm room. They go to the library.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:17] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:09:18] Or they go to somewhere public . Why?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:20] Because they want to meet girls, but there's probably another reason.
Dan Ariely: [00:09:23] So one is, of course, they think if they'll stay in the room. They'll just go to sleep.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:26] Yeah, that's accurate.
Dan Ariely: [00:09:28] But they also want to have the feeling that somebody might look at the screen. So if nobody's looking, they can spend the whole day on Facebook, YouTube, and so on. But if they're in the library, they have a high responsibility to other people around them. Somebody could pass by. They would feel that they're wasting their time. And that actually helps them kind of adhere to the commitment to study, at least a little bit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:51] I can see that. I mean, I was a much better student in law school than I was in undergrad. And I'll tell you, working in the quiet reading room where it looks like — I went to Michigan. So it's like bookshelves and it's a stone room and everyone's quiet. Everyone's taken pretty seriously. And they don't let just anybody in there. You have to be a certified bar-accredited attorney or a student at that law school, no undergrads, et cetera. So you go into this area where it's like, the ritual is quiet, study, get it done. So if you're there, you're playing poker, there were those guys that were just socially inept that even sitting in a place like that, or you're supposed to be working, it just lost all of its effects after a while.
Dan Ariely: [00:10:29] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:29] But I'll tell you when in there I kind of wanted to get out of there. And so, because it was intense. And so I got my studying done and I got out of there because otherwise, it was over.
Dan Ariely: [00:10:38] And there is the question of what the environment tells us what our role should be.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:43] Sure, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:10:44] And we accept that role. And then we act and the consequence of that, which is why it's so hard when you said you work at home. Sometimes it's very hard to work from home —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:52] Oh, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:10:53] — because there's this mixture of roles. The environment basically reminds us about what our role is and the environment gives us all kinds of different cues.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:02] Oh, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:11:02] It's time to do laundry, make lunch, make another lunch.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:07] Yes, make a little snack. The environment of working from home took me years to be able to work effectively from home. I would say six years ago, five years ago. I would get started around 2:00 p.m. because it was hard to get out of bed because there was nobody waiting for you. And then you'd get up and you'd go to the gym and then you'd make some food and then you're kind of tired and then you want to make some calls, and then you look for the easiest thing because you haven't planned out your day or either gotten up early and gotten something done. So you just start with the easy activity and then it's five o'clock and you know, you go, "Oh, I can't start that big project thing now. It's too late in the day. I'll do it tomorrow.
Dan Ariely: [00:11:38] Yeah. By the way, this problem is not just limited to 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. If you think about the things we have to do. We have a lot of small tasks that we just have to do. And what's interesting is they give us a bizarre sense of reward because it makes us feel as if we're making progress.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:58] Sure
Dan Ariely: [00:11:59] And the official name for this is structured procrastination.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:02] Oh, perfect. I have that. Yeah, I do that well.
Dan Ariely: [00:12:03] And basically kind of the prototype for this is making to-do lists. You make a to-do list and item number one is to make a to-do list.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:12] Yes.
Dan Ariely: [00:12:13] And you cross it out. You write things, cross them out, and you haven't done that much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:18] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:12:18] In fact, you've taken time away from making real progress and just made the list. And by the way, there's some good lists. The process of doing small things and checking them off gives us a sense as if we're making progress where the hard things are very bizarre because they don't give us a sense of progress is very elusive. Like, imagine —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:38] Like it's a blunted struggle that you'd go through to get it done.
Dan Ariely: [00:12:40] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:41] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:12:42] And so, first of all, it's a long term, right? You could spend the whole day and you can say — you come home and your significant other said, "What do you do?" You say, "Honey, today, I was thinking the whole day — I thought nothing good."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:51] That's your job.
Dan Ariely: [00:12:51] "Nothing good came out. I was thinking, you know, I made my mistakes, maybe I'm thinking a little bit better now," but you don't feel like it was a useful day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:58] No.
Dan Ariely: [00:12:59] Whereas you say, "I got my inbox zero," Oh my goodness, that was an achievement.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:02] Yeah, pat yourself on the back.
Dan Ariely: [00:13:04] There's another bizarre progress, which I kind of worry a little bit about digital tools. You know, I wrote a few books, and I think that for every book, I maybe edited it — I'm not talking about writing — maybe edited it 50 times where you read it again and rethink about it and change some things and just edit, and edit, and edit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:22] The whole thing 50 times?
Dan Ariely: [00:13:23] Yeah, about.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:24] That sounds like an absolutely horrendous amount of work.
Dan Ariely: [00:13:27] It's a lot of work but it's actually quite pleasurable. Over time, I think I write slower and I enjoy it more.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:33] That's great.
Dan Ariely: [00:13:33] For me, it's like, I'm not such a good writer, but it's a little bit like wine where I think about sentences. And now if you have a deadline —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:41] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:13:42] — that's a different story. But if you're just writing, it's a very wonderful activity. But anyway, the first book for Predictably Irrational, you know, I had this version of it that it took me a long time and they looked at it and I had the thought of like, "Why didn't they just write this version to start?" I go, "Why did we have all the other versions?" Now, imagine you wrote everything on hard copy; you would have kind of a sense of your progression.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:08] Oh you mean, like you're handwriting it and then you re-hand write it —
Dan Ariely: [00:14:12] Let's say you did it. I'm not recommending it. But let's say you did, let's say you did, but you had a hard copy of all the versions. You would probably understand some of the progress in your own thinking.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:21] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:14:22] You would say, "Oh, I really thought about that example. And later on, I understood something else and I changed it, and so on." But in a digital world, when we just write on top of other things and there's no history —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:33] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:14:33] — for the progress of thought. It's much easier to say, "I should have started here."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:38] Sure, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:14:39] Right, it's because you don't actually understand the journey of thinking. And I think one of her problems is that we don't understand how much time thinking takes and how the pure efforts and the pure focusing and trying to resolve a problem and think about all the angles actually get you somewhere. Sometimes you go in a direction, discover it was just a waste of time but you come back and you refine your thinking. It's an activity that gives you very little, short-term reward.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:07] Sure, yeah,
Dan Ariely: [00:15:08] It's incredibly valuable. But if you say what gets me to think at the end of the day that I had a productive day — if I thought for four more hours or answered email for four more hours. However, what would make you happier at the end of the month year or at the end of your life?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:25] 10 books or zero inboxes, right?
Dan Ariely: [00:15:27] When you get your deathbed, you could say, "I had 278 days of zero inbox."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:31] Yes.
Dan Ariely: [00:15:32] In my lifetime. What an achievement? So we do the urgent — and it's actually a very sad thing. I think there's something about the way — the electronic way in which the world is progressing. That we have more of those things that give us the short —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:46] Dopamine hit, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:15:48] I got something. I got something. I have a feeling that on Monday morning, there's a huge group of people who shop to work. Don't really feel like doing anything. Work just seems too daunting. So instead they email me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:01] They email you, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:16:02] You know, what could I do to feel like I've done some work?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:05] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:16:05] It's not just me, of course, but we do this — make work that gives us a sense of progress without delving into the things that actually give us long-term satisfaction. So you are basically resting on your laurels.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:16] Resting on your laurels.
Dan Ariely: [00:16:18] You're kind of saying this thing has 10 steps. The last one is for two months.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:22] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:16:22] But let's just call them 10 steps. I've done five out of 10.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:25] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:16:25] I'm basically an expert already.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:28] But the problem is when your laurels are made out of crappy tinsel and plastic, and you're supposed to do something ironclad you're in trouble if you're resting on those laurels.
Dan Ariely: [00:16:36] Yep. There's another thing which is called implementation intention. Have you heard the term?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:41] No, I never heard that.
Dan Ariely: [00:16:42] Implementation intention is the idea that we have very fuzzy plans for life and we make concrete plans only in very specific cases or only when we get close to the event. So let's say where you want to go on vacation next summer. And I said, "What would you need to go to plan your vacation?" And you would say, "You know, I'll have to decide where to go and get a flight ticket." It will be at that level.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:05] Right, okay.
Dan Ariely: [00:17:07] Two days before the event, you will think about very specific things. You will think about immunization and passport. Who's going to take care of your dog, and who will water the plant?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:15] Right.
Dan Ariely: Long term and in advance, we have these very, very fuzzy plans that don't actually help us make any progress. And the plans get consolidated only when we get very close to the event. One experiment we did — this was in a local supermarket. It was selling kinds of sandwiches and drinks for lunch. So it was a supermarket, but lunch activity was mostly people coming to buy a sandwich and a drink. And people on average were spending six dollars and we gave people a coupon that said, "Spend eight dollars, get a dollar off."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:43] Okay.
Dan Ariely: [00:17:44] And what happened? Basically, we got lots of people to spend eight dollars, right? Valuable. There were some people — we gave them a coupon that said, "Spend four dollars or more, get a dollar off." You know what happens to those people? They spend less.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:55] Why?
Dan Ariely: [00:17:56] They could have spent six and get it all off, but the four dollars kind of gets them to think that they should try and aim for four dollars —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:02] I see.
Dan Ariely: [00:18:03] — and they did. But here's the interesting thing. This coupon of saying, "Spend eight dollars, get a dollar off," some people got it outside of the store, 12 feet before the end of the store. And some people got it once they entered the store. What happened? The effect of the coupon was higher for people who got it outside of the store. Because outside of the store, they had very fuzzy plans about what they were going to get. They knew they were going to get a sandwich and a drink, but which sandwich and which drink could change —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:32] They hadn't thought about it yet.
Dan Ariely: [00:18:33] They haven't thought about it. So they got a coupon that says, "Spend eight dollars, get a dollar off." They said, "Oh, let's spend eight dollars." And then when they got to the counter, that was their starting point. Once people entered the store, they already got concrete plans of what they wanted to do. And they already had a specific sandwich and a specific drink in mind. And then when you give them a coupon, it doesn't change their behavior in the same way. So a big part of it is to think about what are our concrete plans for acting? Acting doesn't come about by having very general plans of what to do in life. Action comes from having concrete plans and even putting it into your calendar and saying when you're going to do it.
[00:19:11] The question is: what kind of things cause us to create concrete plans? Sometimes it's the closeness of the event in time. Like you get close to the sandwich counter. You need to pick one up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:20] Right, time's ticking.
Dan Ariely: [00:19:22] But in your case, if you have some long-term goal, you might do the easy things because it gives you short-term satisfaction as if you're making progress. But the things that are more difficult, you never get them to be concrete. There's no urgency to put them on the agenda, so they never get executed.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:37] Right. That's why people have to-do lists that have things on them and say, "Write book" —
Dan Ariely: [00:19:41] Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:42] — at the top. And it's been there for three years and it's never getting checked up.
Dan Ariely: [00:19:46] Even page one doesn't —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:47] Yeah, you know, you're doing structured procrastination well, when you're putting things on your checklist, your to-do list, that you've already done, just so that you can cross them out.
Dan Ariely: [00:19:57] That's right. Then you're a master. Then you've got the PhD of structured procrastination.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:01] At one point, I started doing things like that. And then I thought, okay, this is objectively not helpful at all. I figured out that the number one productivity tool for me personally, and for most people that underutilize the calendar because we always think we need these reminders and this Pomodoro timer, 20-second bursts of work. But if you don't know the day before or the day —
Dan Ariely: [00:20:22] 20 seconds?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:20] Yeah. 20 minutes or whatever it is, it depends on how intense your work is. That's the workout, the 20-second Tabata timer. But if you're doing the 20 minutes of work, as hard as you can, but you don't know what you're going to do, you're in trouble. And what you really need is a calendar. And then when you have all those things structured in there, you can also put the big things on the calendar so that they get done and everything else that's smaller just fills in around it. And you just make those appointments and those gym memberships and everything that you've got in there as an equal so you don't skip them. But it's a lot easier said than done because once you have that calendar, you're faced with the accountability that you slept over that 8:00 a.m. time slot, where you were going to study Chinese. You know you slept through that and now, you know that. It's harder to backwards rationalize that, that was okay.
Dan Ariely: [00:21:04] Yeah. And the calendar has all kinds of challenges. I think the calendar is a very — it's actually a wonderful, but also a very misguided tool. You know the calendar was designed for coordination with other people. So what do we have? It's based on time and at 3:00 p.m., you're going to meet somebody for this kind of meeting. And it's really good for that. But if you think about something like working on the book, yes, we can do a hack. We can say every day from nine to 11 —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:28] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:21:28] — I'll do this book, but shouldn't some days be from 8:30 to 11 and sometimes in the evenings and so on. The problem is that there's a lot of things that are not easily written down in the correct time on the calendar. If you have a task that might take a thousand hours, there's no natural way to put it on the calendar.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:46] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:21:47] If you have a task that takes three minutes like drinking a glass of water or calling your mother, it doesn't fit your calendar either. So the calendar is really optimized for meetings.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:57] You only call your mom for three minutes?
Dan Ariely: [00:21:59] No, 15.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:01] Got it.
Dan Ariely: [00:22:02] But the calendar is not good for lots of things.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:05] No. That's true.
Dan Ariely: [00:22:06] It's good for some things. So what happened is that the rest of it, you can actually try and do a hack and write them anyway, even though it's not ideal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:13] Right. Like a one hour block where you do 20 different little things.
Dan Ariely: [00:22:16] That's right. So you say time for little things, time for email time for Facebook, a big chunk of time to do important tasks, but you don't know what it will be. So you can do hacks around that, but that's so time-consuming and it's not perfect. And what happened is most people don't do that. And then what happened? They look at their calendar and you say, "Oh my goodness, I'm free. I have nothing to do."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:33] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:22:34] What should I do with this time?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:35] Netflix.
Dan Ariely: [00:22:35] Meeting. Somebody is asking for a meeting. Of course, I can. There's a little suggestion we give people which is to — if somebody is asking you to do something a year from now, ask yourself whether you would do it next week.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:47] That is such a great idea. I've read that in your book. And I thought this is life-changing because the problem — and this bears repeating — if somebody asks you to do something a long time from now, ask yourself if you would do it next week. Because the problem that I had up until very recently, I think in part from reading some of your work, I realized, "Wow, I do this to myself all the time. Oh yeah, I'll totally travel to Idaho for your birthday party in three months. Why wouldn't I do that?" And then two weeks before that, I look at my monthly calendar and I go, "Why do I have plans to go to Idaho for this birthday party? How do I get out of this? How do I not do that?
Dan Ariely: [00:23:23] Yep, and then there's another approach, which is we use the term cancel elation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:29] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:23:29] This is the happiness you get when something was canceled. So when somebody asks you to do something, you simulate in your mind, how happy would you be if the day before they canceled?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:39] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:23:39] And if you're really happy —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:41] Don't reschedule it If you can't,
Dan Ariely: [00:23:42] But that's the thing, right? That you're going to be very busy next year. Just like you are today. Just the details are not written. So we don't understand the opportunity cost of time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:51] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:23:52] We understand the opportunity cost of time today. Like if you asked me to do something else today, I can't. I'm booked solid. There's no way — 2018, yeah, I looked at my calendar. It looks quite free.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:01] Book the whole day, block off the whole day.
Dan Ariely: [00:24:03] Yep, but the calendar — I don't think the calendar is enough. I do think we need extra hacks around it. Look, the big, meaningful things that we want to do take time and they don't give us the same jolt of momentary satisfaction when we do them. Sadly, long-term happiness — nobody reports that answering more emails gives them long-term happiness.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:24] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:24:25] So how do we get the importance to weigh more than the urgent and how do we say no? How do we basically say, "You know what? Yes, I have a million emails. Yes, I know I will not be able to get to all of them," but there's this thing that is a high priority for me. And I want to make sure that I don't procrastinate every day and therefore never get to it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:45] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:24:46] I want to make sure I stop. And we need some hacks around the calendar to help us do this. Some discipline around it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:52] So do you have calendar hacks or hacks around the calendar other than just making sure you have the appropriate amounts of time blocked off.
Dan Ariely: [00:24:58] So a few years ago, we actually had a little startup called Timeful that we tried to do that. So what we tried to do was to ask people, "What do you want to do?" And we would see people with things like, "I want to read more, I want to exercise. I want to call my mother. I have these big projects." And then we will take those things and we have kind of an AI background and scheduled for people in specific times and also see when people did them or not. Then we would over time try to schedule in better times. And we learned lots of things we learned, for example, that the first two hours of the day are generally hours that people have a high cognitive capacity.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:36] Really?
Dan Ariely: [00:25:36] Yeah. I'm not talking like, 5 a.m. You woke at five today.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:39] Yeah, it was awful.
Dan Ariely: [00:25:41] We're not talking five to seven, but nine to 11 are usually very good hours for people. And if you come to the office at nine and you have kind of high capacity in the first two hours you do email and Facebook.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:52] It's all wasted. You just took the hours that we have high capacity are so precious, you have a few of those a day and there's so much more productive than the hours after lunch where you can hardly function.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:04] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:26:05] And nevertheless, we don't use them right. So we will also try to take this into account. Like our model was, imagine you're a factory and you have lots of different tasks coming your way, and you have some hours that you're productive and some hours you're not productive. And how do you create priorities? And how do you figure out what to put out? So we actually had lots of success. We got people to call their mothers and drink water and exercise. And reading is incredible. You talk to people about reading and people say, "I haven't read anything." Then you say, "You know what? Read 15 minutes a day." Like just put in your calendar, read 15 minutes a day. It helps you fall asleep better. Then you say, you want to read. It's amazing what you can do 15 minutes a day — if you do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:43] If you do it, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:26:44] Or writing. An average book has 80,000 words. If you wrote a thousand words a day, how many days would it take you to write a book?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:55] Three months. It's counting all the editing and the days you took off to do other things.
Dan Ariely: [00:27:00] I mean, if you say, you say, if you wrote a thousand words, if you wrote 500 words a day, you could produce two books a year. Almost nobody's at that level of productivity because we just don't get it. Like the amount of flow productivity we have is just painful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:14] And to put that in perspective, I remember when I was a kid counting, approximately how many words I could write on one of those standard colleges, old papers. That was 500 words. That's not that much writing.
Dan Ariely: [00:27:24] Email, you're writing much more than 500 words a day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:26] Oh, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:27:27] But it's a very different story actually thinking slowly and writing and so on. B.F. Skinner, the famous psychologist, basically had this rule that you would come to the office and he would write, I think, 730 words, and he would stop on the word.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:39] 730 words, middle of a sentence, he'd stopped?
Dan Ariely: [00:27:41] Something like this, he would stop but he had this very — and he was unbelievably prolific. So trying to figure out how we prioritize the things are actually important for us and stick to it is very useful. Here's another thing, I became very interested in rules and the thing is that if you leave things to your own judgment every time, you’re likely to fail.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:02] Yeah, I would say —
Dan Ariely: [00:28:03] Every time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:03] I was going to say, I hope he doesn't say it, that's the best way to do it because that strategy is not good for me.
Dan Ariely: [00:28:07] It's terrible, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:08] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:28:08] But the moment you have the rule, you basically have taken some decision out of your mind. And actually, there's an interesting story. There's an Orthodox Jewish scholar, Eliyahu Dessler, who said that if you take all the Jewish people and you order them from the least religious person on the left or the most religious person on the right — and that's true for all religions — one of the differences is they have more and more rules that dictate their lives that are outside of their consideration. Right? So if you're a secular person, you have to decide about everything —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:41] Yes.
Dan Ariely: [00:28:41] — what you dress and what you eat and so on. As you become more and more religious, religion doesn't regulate everything in life, but it regulates more and more.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:50] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:28:51] You don't have a question of what you're going to do Saturday,
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:53] Especially if you're a Hasidic Jew or ger — you know, that sect ger?
Dan Ariely: [00:28:57] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:58] Super strict.
Dan Ariely: [00:28:59] Yeah. The decision has been carried out for you and it's kind of interesting. When I travel, I sometimes try to meet the chief rabbis. I'm very curious about religion. Like, think about — you know, you're interested in startups, what are the most successful social institutions out there?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:13] Sure, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:29:13] And I'm using the word successful in terms of survival, not in terms of necessarily positive impacts on human life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:18] Sure. Religion. Yeah, absolutely.
Dan Ariely: [00:29:20] And clearly, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:21] Yeah, clearly.
Dan Ariely: [00:29:21] What's working so well. So there's lots of things.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:23] Guilt.
Dan Ariely: [00:29:25] There's lots of things about religion. There are complex organizations. So I asked him the chief rabbi of England and of South Africa. I said, "If I was going to keep one of the 10 commandments, what would you recommend?" What do you think they recommended?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:38] I'm guessing it's going to be the one that's like the Sabbath or something.
Dan Ariely: [00:29:41] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:42] Really?
Dan Ariely: [00:29:42] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:43] Why?
Dan Ariely: [00:29:44] And they both said the same thing. They said, "Look, first of all, you don't need a commandment telling you not to kill."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:48] That's true.
Dan Ariely: [00:29:48] It's kind of obvious, but some of them are less obvious, but they say, if you think about progress in life, we think that taking a day off decreases problems. What we don't see is how much freedom it gives us and how much clarity of mind and rest and so on to create this. So I actually tried once a random Sabbath and once on the day of atonement, I don't work on the Sabbath, not a lot. It's a very interesting process to be in a day that you say on this day, there's no electronics. Because usually when I'm home, no matter what I do, 15, 25 percent of my brain is occupied by the email that I'm probably getting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:26] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:30:27] Like, as we speak now, you're probably stimulating what kind of email you're having, all the things you're not answering, your phone is off, maybe all this notification. Who do you think will respond? It's very hard not to have part of our mind being busy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:40] Right. But when you say this is a day, there's no electronics. And not only that, it has a higher-order meaning.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:47] Right. It's not just your decision.
Dan Ariely: [00:30:49] Even if you don't believe in God, you say there's a social agreement about this being an issue. I mean, imagine that every day you considered, whether you should recycle or not. Should I recycle? How much benefit is it giving the municipality?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:02] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:31:03] It's cold outside. It's raining. On many days you would decide, it's not worth it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:07] Absolutely.
Dan Ariely: [00:31:07] But if you had the rule that said good people recycle, very different story. Now, every instance is not just about yes or no to recycle it's about the fact that there's a principle that you want to adhere to. Being a vegetarian. Basically, it helps people do something that they want, but by having this rule and having a moral judgment around it by being vegan, even more, it helps people adhere to those rules. So in the same way, I think that with productivity, there's all kinds of fruits that we can create. And we might not want to give them the same moral judgments that vegans have —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:45] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:31:45] — about the rest of us. But I think that those things would certainly help with productivity.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:52] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest. Dan Ariely. We'll be right back.
[00:31:57] This episode is sponsored in part by Public Rec. Okay, I'm in love with these sweatpants. I've been wearing these for like too much to the point where they should be gross, but they're high quality, so they don't feel gross and they don't look gross. These aren't the gross kind of sweatpants that you go to the gym and work out, and these are like the fancy kind where you look cool and you feel good. And then you go, "Wait Why would I ever wear regular pants again?" They don't get too hot. They don't sweat like crazy. They're very breathable. They're sort of moisture-wicking and all that. They got zipper pockets. So if you're — I don't know going upside down on roller coasters, your wallet won't fall out. Your phone won't fall out. I don't know. I love these things. Like I said, I've been wearing them all the time. I'm a huge fan of these. I immediately went and bought a bunch more and probably think that we're doing pretty successful here because we used our code to just stock up on these things. I gifted them. I'm telling you, you will never find a better pair of sweatpants than Public Rec.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:05] Grammarly stop writing like a ding dong. And now back to Dan Ariely on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:34:11] So are these all identity-based behaviors? So it's okay, you are a vegan, you are Jewish, you are Catholic — because it seems like you could use that to shape other people's behavior. And not necessarily in a nefarious way. I mean, you could do this with kids. For example, if your kid won't share, you can say, "What would Captain America do? Would Captain America share?" Instead of, "Why don't you want to share?" "Well, I don't want to, I want the whole piece of candies." You say, "Well, would Captain America share?" "Captain America might share."
Dan Ariely: [00:34:41] So identity is very helpful. It's very helpful because it creates this sense of continuity. So even, for example, saying to people, "Do you save, or are you a saver?" "Are you a voter?" Basically, all of those things that create identity help. Now you can have rules without identity. Right? You could say, "Every day from eight to nine, I don't open an email. I don't open Facebook. I don't open YouTube. I just write," and you can have a rule like this and you can try to adhere to it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:09] I'm a writer is more powerful.
Dan Ariely: [00:35:11] Yeah, but if you want to add to it, there's all kinds of things you can add in terms of motivation. Identity is helpful, public commitment. I mean, there's all kinds of things that you could do to make it more powerful. If you're a vegetarian — it's kind of funny. I'm a vegetarian at home.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:25] Really?
Dan Ariely: [00:35:25] I will never eat meat. I think it's multiple reasons. Some ideology about animals. Some worry about modern agriculture and some health, but it's not identity. It's not identity in a strong way because I'm not vegetarian, but I created two separate contexts where I don't do it at home, but when I'm traveling, I have different rules.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:48] The rule is whatever's easier. It looks tasty. It's on the menu, that's what you eat.
Dan Ariely: [00:35:52] Give me two of those.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:53] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:35:53] But the moment, if you can get people to have it as an identity, it's much easier to maintain the rule.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:58] That's really interesting. So I can see that working with parenting, I can see that working within corporations that have a strong corporate identity. For example, people who work here, we stay late. We work hard, we help each other out. We don't steal office supplies, whatever it is you want, because that's how we roll here at — I don't know, Apple, NASDAQ, whatever it is. You know that we go the extra mile and you can see that in the marketing. But if you can do that with your employees and your team or loyalty. You know, if you're talent recruiting, if people are constantly being recruited away from you like they are here in Silicon Valley, loyalty is the identity that your company has, you might stand to benefit strongly from that as an organization,
Dan Ariely: [00:36:38] Absolutely. People seek identity in many, many ways. And there's so many ways in which we don't allow people to extract all the joy of identity that they could. When I was still teaching at MIT, I had a kind of strange life. I do research and I do research on chocolate and Bionicles. I give people a chance to steal money from me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:56] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:36:59] And I had this assistant. He had this very strange job because basically, he had to fight with the MIT accounting people to reimburse me for chocolates and Legos and people stealing money — but his life was basically constrained to an interface with SAP and the MIT accounting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:18] How long did he last in that position?
Dan Ariely: [00:37:20] Well, I wanted to buy a vending machine and they were appalled, like "Why do I want the vending machine? And was my business like?" Anyway, so the guy was just suffering, you know, he was actually an important part of the research process.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:32] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:37:32] Because without him, we couldn't have done anything —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:34] How are you going to get your vending machine? But he also had no idea why he was doing anything that he was doing. So after a while, I started inviting him to our lab meetings. Now, he was an administrator. Like, his job was to put numbers into an SAP form before somebody else will push another button and so on. That was his job, but I invited him to a lab meeting and he was not a PhD student. He was not the researcher, but he got a glimpse of why we were doing what we were doing and his understanding and his commitment to his role was very, very different afterward.
[00:38:07] And I think too often, we have kind of the Charlie Chaplin modern days kind of approach to people who work. People are just doing widgets. So people are just kind of flavor and we can just replace them. Some companies, particularly some of the big ones in Silicon Valley, have this idea that all programmers should be interchangeable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:23] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:38:24] If somebody leaves, we could just see or, you know, move a little bit of the people around and we all have cubicles — and cubicles, I think, there's some companies — less here in Silicon Valley, but there's some companies that the cubicles people don't even have the same cubicle every day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:39] That was in the book, wasn't it? I just read about this.
Dan Ariely: [00:38:42] Yeah. That's right. This was in Payoff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:43] Yes.
Dan Ariely: [00:38:43] I wrote about this. There's some companies that people come in the morning and they're just rows of empty cubicles. And if you come earlier in the morning, you get to pick a good one.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:52] Oh man.
Dan Ariely: [00:38:52] But you can never have a picture and you can have nothing. Right? And it just gives you the notion that you're replaceable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:59] It reminds me of that movie. It's an old, black and white German movie. I think it's called Metropolis or something. Have you seen it?
Dan Ariely: [00:39:04] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:05] Where they're just pushing coal levers in some sweaty basement somewhere.
Dan Ariely: [00:39:09] That's right. And I think that you know, we treat too many people like that. No — it's not exactly like that. But if you think about the continuum between doing something, which is completely mechanical without thinking, without knowing, and you think about the other way, which is to know why you're doing it and seeing the people that you bring joy and have a full set of understanding of your role in the world. I don't think we take advantage of that continuum if we were any company. And we would start bringing testimonials from customers about how their lives have changed in a positive way. We will take time from people's lives.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:46] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:39:47] Right? So you can say, "Oh, my employer should do another two foams at SAP rather than listen to some customers talking about how much improvement they got in aspect X, Y, or Z." And we have this functional view that says let's not waste their time because their real job — what's their obligation — is to fill all these forms.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:05] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:40:05] So you don't think about the fact that they should care about these forms. We want to do them well, and they should want to do them in a way that is improving things and they might stay a little later. Caring is something that we can get only by increasing more than the meaning of what people are doing. And we don't do a good job there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:22] And we do that through — in part through identity.
Dan Ariely: [00:40:24] That's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:25] Nice. I love that you have a great documentary that I saw a long time ago. I mean, years ago, it was the first time I emailed you out of the blue. The documentary — which we'll link up in the show notes here — you talk a lot about cheating and lying, and I'd love to hear some of the conclusions. Because, first of all, I believe that pretty much everybody, at some point in their life, no matter how good of a person they are, has cheated on something, in school, or a game or, or hopefully not anything more severe than that, but we know what happens. Why do people cheat in the first place?
Dan Ariely: [00:40:54] Yeah. So actually, you know, dishonesty is a — first of all, it's a fascinating topic by itself, but it's also a wonderful lens to think about almost everything in life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:02] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:41:03] Because the model we have for dishonesty is a cost-benefit analysis. It's a model in which people say, "What do I stand to gain? What do we stand to lose?" Here's a bodega. "How much money do they have? What's the chance I'll get called? How much time will I get in prison? Let me figure out if that's a good idea to steal, to rob the place." The reality is that, first of all, we don't know. I mean, if I asked you — like I gave you a list of potential crimes and I say, "How much time will you get in prison for each of them?"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:30] And I'm an attorney and I have no idea. And I guarantee you even a criminal lawyer, probably wouldn't have an exact idea.
Dan Ariely: [00:41:35] So we don't really know, but also this is not how we think about things. Instead what's interesting is we have this internal judgment about what we feel good and bad about it. And what we feel good and bad about it is about our conscience. It's not about outcomes in life. And what's interesting is that it turns out that dishonesty is all about rationalizations. It's all about the question of what can you do and get away with, and not get away with, from the perspective of not being caught, get away with, from the perspective of you know not thinking of yourself as a bad person. So it's what can you do and still maintain the idea that you're a wonderful —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:11] Disillusion.
Dan Ariely: [00:42:11] — caring, human being, and lots of things help this rationalization. It's always the case about what can you do and still feel that you're okay. And lots of things help that everybody else is doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:24] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:42:24] I was screwed before. It's my turn.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:27] Right, I'm making up for it.
Dan Ariely: [00:42:28] I own a vending machine. I'll tell you about these vending machine experiments. I set up the vending machine to say 75 cents for each candy, but the inside of the machine, I set up to be zero. So what happens is no matter how much money you put, the machine says everything is a change — let's you back everything and the candy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:44] Oh, right.
Dan Ariely: [00:42:46] So you come in. There's all these buttons. You put your money, you press the button, you get your candy and all your money back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:51] Oh man.
Dan Ariely: [00:42:52] And there's a big sign that says, "If something is wrong with the machine, please call this number."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:57] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:42:57] And it's my cell phone number. So I know when people are calling. So question number one. What percentage of the people called?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:04] Probably not that many.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:06] Zero.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:06] Zero, right, because when I think something is wrong with this machine, I mean, my candy didn't come out. My money stayed in there.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:12] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:13] Not it gave me free candy.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:15] Exactly. So nobody called. And then how many candies do you think people do?
[00:43:19] Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:19] I think it was empty after a certain period of time.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:20] It was but how many — the average person, how many candies did they take? Like would one person just empty the machine?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:26] No, I don't think so. I think at some point they're going to go, I've had enough. But I don't think it would just be one. Would it?
Dan Ariely: [00:43:31] That's right so the majority to — either three or four.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:35] Yeah. That sounds about right.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:36] Nobody took five. You're revealing your own level of —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:40] I know.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:41] But nobody took five.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] That's good.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:42] And I think what they were saying is they were saying something like, I remember this other vending machine. They took my money and didn't give me a candy
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:49] This is vending machine justice.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:51] It's karma.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:52] Karma.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:52] Actually, the only mystery is why do you take so long for the world to —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:56] Yeah, I should have been getting this for free years ago.
Dan Ariely: [00:43:58] That's right. That's right. And that other vending machine must have been a close relative of this one — we even things out. So rationalization is a big part of it, and lots of things help personalization. By the way. It's kind of shocking that we have this model of cost-benefit analysis. And it's not just that we have this model, but we do legislation based. So think about something like the death penalty.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:19] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:44:20] The death penalty is based on the idea that people would say, "Oh, I don't want to die. Let me not commit this crime." Imagine you come home at night and you're pissed off with your significant other. Then you go to the kitchen and you take a big, knife and you say, "Oh, we have the death penalty here. Let's do something else."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:36] Unlikely, unlikely
Dan Ariely: [00:44:37] The results show that the death penalty has no effect.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:40] No deterrent effect.
Dan Ariely: [00:44:41] No deterrent. California three strikes and you out, no effect,
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:44] Right. Especially because it's not proportional to the crime. I mean, if you shoplift three times and now you're in jail for life, it's ridiculous.
Dan Ariely: [00:44:50] But not only is it ridiculous, it wasn't a deterrence.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:53] Right. It didn't even work.
Dan Ariely: [00:44:54] People say, "Oh, I had twice already. Let me stop now."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:56] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:44:57] This is just not how people think. Now, it would be nice if people thought this way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:00] Like, "I'm on my second strike. I really shouldn't steal that candy bar from that vending machine."
Dan Ariely: [00:45:03] That's right. "Let me change my life now." So what happened is that we have these models of how people behave. The model is inaccurate. We go ahead and we design the world. We create legislation and rules and litigation, and we try to change how we regulate banking based on these wrong models about how the world works. When in fact, if we understood how the world works from the beginning, we would set up the system in a much better way.
[00:45:30] So think about Wall Street. Are there really psychopaths who are trying to steal our money in 2007, eight, and so on?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:37] I mean, some of those people that I worked with certainly were, but I think the majority are probably just people who are — one, rationalizing. You know, "Oh, my parents were poor and I was poor growing up and I'm ready."
Dan Ariely: [00:45:48] And not just that they say, everybody is doing it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:51] Everybody's doing it. It's true. Everybody they know is doing it.
Dan Ariely: [00:45:53] And they would say things like, "Nobody would buy it if it doesn't make sense."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:57] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:44:58] "It's rational and this is what I'm supposed to do, and I'm doing it for the shareholders. And this is my fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders of the company." You know, people make up these stories and we don't regulate that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:09] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:46:10] So instead of regarding conflicts of interest with treating the problem as if the real issue is planned dishonesty.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:16] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:46:17] Rather than something that comes from —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:19] Incremental behavior design. This makes sense.
Dan Ariely: [00:46:21] And slippery slopes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:22] We're talking about lying, instead of cheating, like shifting from cheating to lying, how does this affect our brain? Because in the documentary, it seems like there's an assertion that the brain might adapt to being untruthful, to telling untruths.
Dan Ariely: [00:46:35] The term I tried to use is dishonesty.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:38] Instead of lying.
Dan Ariely: [00:46:39] Instead of lying. Because I think that I would much prefer to describe the act as being dishonest whereas I think lying implies intention.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:47] Okay.
Dan Ariely: [00:46:48] And a lot of times because of rationalization, yes, you are lying, but do you truly understand that at that moment that you were lying? I'm not so sure.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:57] I mean, it depends. In certain cases, for sure, not. Right?
Dan Ariely: [00:47:00] You know, think about something like Robin Hood. Imagine Robin Hood —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:04] Great rationalization.
Dan Ariely: [00:47:05] — stealing from the rich. Do you think he felt bad?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:07] No, I've seen that cartoon.
Dan Ariely: [00:47:10] There you go.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:10] He didn't feel bad at all.
Dan Ariely: [00:47:11] Right. So the action can be described as dishonest but lying, I think it's actually much less common than people think. I think there are many more cases where it's. wishful blindness and sometimes self-deception or not complete awareness of what we're doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:27] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:47:27] So I think it's a much better way to think about it but —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:29] My question was, does our brain then adapt to that dishonesty?
Dan Ariely: [00:47:31] Oh, yes, absolutely.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:33] And how does it adapt? What's this process look like? What are we seeing here?
Dan Ariely: [00:47:37] So the brain mostly reacts to changes, right? So when you move from outside to the inside, in the beginning, it looks very dark, a few minutes into it, your brain is used to it. Adaptation is about the fact that you get used to what you have. Like in the morning, when you put your clothes on you, you knew you were putting them on —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:54] Right. I was aware.
Dan Ariely: [00:47:55] You're aware.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:56] I didn't do a very great job today, but I was aware of what was going on
Dan Ariely: [00:47:58] You look lovely.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:59] Thank you.
Dan Ariely: [00:48:00] But later in the day, you don't notice that anymore. And that's what the brain is supposed to do. It's supposed to kind of get us to be neutral at the level of constant activation and just pay attention to things that are deviating —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:10] Okay.
Dan Ariely: [00:48:11] — from that. And the same thing happens with lies or dishonesty, the moment you start acting in a dishonest way, it's not a surprise. It's kind of in the background, it's kind of like the light changes a bit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:24] it becomes your program.
Dan Ariely: [00:48:25] That's just the normal state of affairs. So again, if you think about us as being dishonest because we do a cost-benefit analysis and we calculate all the time and so on, that's a very different model.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:37] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:48:37] But if you say what makes me feel comfortable and uncomfortable, the question is, do you even notice? And the answer is we often don't even know it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:45] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:48:46] Why? Because we've done it so much. It's just the norm. Here's an experiment. You take two people that don't know each other. You put them in a room and you say, "Please introduce yourself, talk to the other person for 10 minutes." They introduce themselves. 10 minutes later, you put them into a separate room and you say, "Did you lie in these 10 minutes?" And almost everybody says, "No."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:05] Yeah, sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:49:05] And then you say, "Luckily, we taped everything you've said. Why don't we play it back to you? Sentence by sentence and tell us each sentence was it perfectly true —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:13] Oh man.
Dan Ariely: [00:49:13] Truthful or not. On average, people say that they lie between two and three times after you do this exercise.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:18] Really.
Dan Ariely: [00:49:18] Now what happened is that social lying we just do all the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:22] What kind of examples are we talking about?
Dan Ariely: [00:49:23] I just told you, you look nice. This is a terrible shirt for white pants.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:27] I know. So all right, you nailed it on the example. It was a little too fast.
Dan Ariely: [00:49:33] But the reality is that we have a lot of social niceties, for example, I'm not saying that people get to a room and kind of selling the Brooklyn Bridge to somebody.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:00] Scheming yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:49:40] But we have all kinds of things we exaggerate about our GPA. And if it's an undergrad or we say nicer things about it — I mean, this is part of the social niceties of the world. What if we can't feel smooth over some uncomfortable things in life and we do it for ourselves and we do it for other people. Now, at the moment that we do it, do we catch ourselves, "Oh my goodness. I told them I was late because —"?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:03] No.
Dan Ariely: [00:50:04] Like you told me today that you were late because there was traffic.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:07] Right. That was actually true.
Dan Ariely: [00:50:09] How many times in your life have you blamed traffic? When in fact it was just that you got up too late and started working too late and you should have —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:17] You know what, I actually, as of the past few months and years, I never lie about anything consciously. Right? Like, the social life probably happens, but today, if I were running late because I got up too late, I probably would have said I got up to it. I would've just said I'm running late and then just left blank at the end. But I have what I thought was a good reason. So I was like, "Oh yes, traffic." Now, I'm additionally late because of traffic.
Dan Ariely: [00:50:08] Yes, the traffic. That's right. So, you know what will happen if you've got up late and there was traffic. You wouldn't say I got up late and there was traffic.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:45] No, I would have just gone, "Thank you traffic, all right."
Dan Ariely: [00:50:48] And we don't catch us doing it. Because it's kind of such a part of the standard norm. Now we talk about just white lies and social lying but of course, it goes into all kinds of things that the moment you start doing something, it just becomes your model of working. You don't pay attention to it. It doesn't register.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:07] This could be a slippery slope or does that not —
Dan Ariely: [00:51:10] Absolutely. A guy that we interviewed for the movie. His name is Joe Papp. Joe was a cyclist. He was cycling for the US Olympic team, really good —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:18] Oh right.
Dan Ariely: [00:51:20] — very, very good cyclist. Anyway, he cycled for the Olympic team. He went back to school, got his degree, went back to cycling. First race, he feels he's just as good. Everybody else is slightly better. That night he cries. Cycling was always — well, one of his friends gives him an address and a name of a physician. He goes to see this physician, white coat and stethoscope, gives him a prescription for EPO. EPO is a cancer drug that increases the production of red blood cells. He goes to the pharmacy, the prescription, they give him the prescription. The insurance company pays for it. He only pays the deductible. He goes back to his room. He takes all kinds of medication for health — I mean legal stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:02] Right, sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:52:03] But he also injects this one time, then another time, then another time, then another time. Then he discovers everybody in the team does it. Then they do it together. Later on, there's a shortage of EPO. But he has friends on the Chinese team. They put him in touch with a factory in China. He imports EPO —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:20] Jeez.
Dan Ariely: [00:52:20] And another the team hears about it. They ask him to import as well. He's a good guy. He helps them as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:25] Now, he's a drug dealer.
Dan Ariely: [00:52:26] Now, he's a drug — think about this story. If you talk to Joe when he was like 19.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:33] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:52:33] Racing for the Olympic team. And you say, "Joe, what are the odds that you will become a drug dealer?"
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:38] Yeah, he would say, "Are you out of your mind? Never, I would never do that."
Dan Ariely: [00:52:41] "My life is cycling. This is what I love doing. I can't imagine — first of all, I can't imagine being a drug dealer but I can't imagine anything that would risk the thing in life that I love so much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:50] Sure, hurt the sport, hurt his ability to play the sport. He's banned.
Dan Ariely: [00:52:53] He's banned.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:54] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:52:55] Right. But when you talk about saying, don't think about the last step, think about the first. Now put yourself in Joe's situation. Imagine that you — cycling was all you love you. You finish your undergrad. You're back to cycling. You don't do well. Don't you cry that night?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:11] Yeah, absolutely, I cried that night.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:12] Don't you talk to a friend?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:14] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:14] Of course you do. They give you a name for a doctor. Don't you go?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:17] Of course.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:17] Of course, you go. The doctor gives you a prescription. Don't you go to the pharmacy?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:21] Well, it's from a doctor.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:21] It's from a doctor.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:22] There's nothing wrong with that.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:23] The pharmacy fills it up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:24] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:24] Don't you take it?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:26] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:26] If you took it, don't you take the first injection?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:28] Of course.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:29] Think about the stuff like when would you stop? I asked you about, what kind of thing does he think would have made him stop? He said if the pharmacy declined his claim.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:38] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:39] But other than that, like when would we have stopped? It's very easy to judge from the outside.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:43] Yes.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:44] By the way, when you look at criminal behavior, we often see the last point.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:47] Sure, yeah. You see the violent crime and whatever else.
Dan Ariely: [00:53:51] Yeah, but the slippery slope is actually an incredibly important thing to do. You know, we often look at the first transgression as only it's the first time and it's just the beginning and it's small and so on. The fact is we need to be careful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:04] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:54:05] Because it's true, it's the first time. It's true, it's very sad, but it also means that there's a chance for a slippery slope and you need to worry about that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:11] So what can we do to reverse the process? Let's say I'm starting to — let's say, "Man, you know, I'm late because of traffic, but then, man, everybody always believes traffic excuses. So I'm just going to be late all the time and not care. And I'm always just going to say traffic and people will be too polite to say anything. Well, if I can lie about that, why don't I just lie to somebody else about this other thing?" How do I catch myself? Or how do I catch others before it's too late? Is there a way to reverse this process? Because it seems to get easier as you say.
Dan Ariely: [00:54:44] Yeah. So first of all, the sad thing is we don't have a slippery improvement.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:48] No slippery upward climb.
Dan Ariely: [00:54:51] For an upward climb, what you need to do, is you need to have a decision point and fresh page. There's no, "Oh, I'm lying up to now three times a week about being late. Every month, improve it by 10 percent."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:05] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:55:05] There's nothing like that. What do you need to do is create a rule that says this is not the right behavior and from now — now there is a group of people who are trying to be radically honest. The movement started in Germany.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:18] That sounds about right.
Dan Ariely: [00:55:20] I'm not sure I want to be married to somebody who told me the absolute truth all the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:24] Your shoes are ugly.
Dan Ariely: [00:55:27] But I think we do need to figure out what are the important things in life where we need to regulate ourselves.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:34] And how do we do things there. So as a university professor, there's all kinds of places where I could create serious conflicts of interest for myself.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:41] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:55:42] Can my students work on the projects that I get to do some outside of university activity.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:50] Interesting.
Dan Ariely: [00:55:52] So I told you about the startup. It would have been fun to take my students and get them to work on this project, but it creates conflicts of interest, so I decided not to. I was asked to be an expert witness in a class-action lawsuit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:04] Oh wow.
Dan Ariely: [00:56:04] They pay a lot of money.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:05] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:56:06] I decided to do it only if I would do it for free.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:09] Really? They must've been really thrilled to have you on board for free.
Dan Ariely: [00:56:12] Well, I asked them to donate the money.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:13] Oh, good. Okay. Yeah, make those guys pay.
Dan Ariely: [00:56:16] Yeah, there's no reason not to get them to pay, but I picked a charity and I said, "Please pass the money to the charity." Now that was an expensive decision.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:24] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:56:23] Because it took me some time and the money could have gone to me, it went to this charity, which I was very happy about, but still it's an expensive decision. But I said to myself, "I don't want to be paid to have an opinion."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:36] Why?
Dan Ariely: [00:56:38] Because I know how corrosive conflicts of interest are.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:42] Right. So that opinion could have been modified by the fact that you got a check for 30 grand sitting in your room.
Dan Ariely: [00:56:47] Look, one of the best investments in the US, the best investment is lobbying.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:53] Oh yeah, well.
Dan Ariely: [00:56:54] And you know, why? Because people are cheap, so you can buy somebody, a beer and a sandwich, or maybe a steak or fish, vegetable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:04] Yeah. It depends on their diet.
Dan Ariely: [00:57:06] Anyway, you could buy somebody a beer, and all of a sudden they start looking at life from your perspective.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:10] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [00:57:11] And you know what? It's a beautiful thing. Why is it a beautiful thing? Because the two of us can meet, we can have a beer and we start liking each other better. And it's a wonderful thing when it's a social realm.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:19] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:57:20] Do you want to mix it with lobbying?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:22] No.
Dan Ariely: [00:57:22] Not so much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:22] I don't want somebody else is making a decision on my behalf because somebody else bought them a beer.
Dan Ariely: [00:57:25] Because somebody else bought them a beer.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:28] No thanks.
Dan Ariely: [00:57:29] So conflicts of interest are one of those things that are incredibly corrosive, but we don't see. I mean, think about yourself, do you see how you are biased by some conflicts of interest? Very hard to see it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:40] It's tough and I have to look at these things with a very sober eye and also sometimes my fiancée now she'll say something like, "Maybe you should look at it this other way." And you don't want to look at it that way because you'd rather cash the check. You'd rather do it your way instead of thinking how other people's feelings or their business might be affected by it? It's hard.
Dan Ariely: [00:58:00] So I decided as I was doing this research on dishonesty and as I was starting to understand the corrosive effects of conflicts of interest, I decided to try and reduce the conflicts of interest in my life. And there's two parts, it's like what are the cases where I could have a conflict of interest.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:15] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:58:18] Somebody pays me to have an opinion or a company is hiring me. And then on the other side, I was trying to think about the people who are service providers for me, financial advisers, physicians, dentists, and so
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:28] Right. Where are their conflicts of interest?
Dan Ariely: [00:58:29] Where are their conflicts of interest and how do I try to reduce that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:32] Yeah. That's always scary, right.
Dan Ariely: [00:58:34] Very scary. By the way, it's very tough to go to your doctor and ask them, "I think you have a conflict of interest. I would like a second opinion." It is such a violation of trust.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:46] It is
Dan Ariely: [00:58:46] Right? You're basically saying — and there's no way to say this. "It's not you. It's just human nature." I think everybody is —
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:52] "Look, everybody is trying to kill me with drug prescriptions that I don't need. So I'm just going to ask another doctor."
Dan Ariely: [00:58:55] "But I really want to know. Tell me which drug company has paid you recently to have an opinion." It's a terrible situation and really very unpleasant, right? It's very unpleasant to go to a doctor and to keep in your mind the fact that their recommendations and what you will take will have an impact on their financial outcome.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:14] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:59:14] And to realize that it's not that they're bad people, but they could be biased by that. And you might be the one paying the bill for their biases.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:22] Ugh, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [00:59:23] it's terrible, it's a very unpleasant thought, but I think it is also true.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:26] Yeah, it has to be because doctors are human and if they share all the same faults, which they do, then it's true.
Dan Ariely: [00:59:31] Yeah and you know it and you see it. I mean, you see it that when you go to surgeons, they recommend surgery. You go to — I mean, everybody recommends what they get to benefit from.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:41] Yeah. And then even if they're blind to that, right? Like, "Oh, you should definitely get the surgery." And another doctor says, "Well, I would only do that under these conditions," but meanwhile, they're trying to throw you off under the knife right then.
Dan Ariely: [00:59:52] And again, it's not because they're saying, "Oh, let me charge this person a bit more."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:56] Right.
Dan Ariely: [00:59:57] It's because if you get paid for the surgery, everybody seems like a surgical case.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:02] Right. What's that expression? When you're a —
Dan Ariely: [01:00:05] If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:06] Looks like a nail. Yeah. I always get that wrong, but that's exactly what I was looking for. So this has been sort of gnawing at me since you'd mentioned that cheating is behavioral. Do you think it's cultural? Do you think it's human or do you think it's a combination of both?
Dan Ariely: [01:00:20] So it is both. So first of all, let me tell you how we measure dishonesty. So we give people a die, like a regular six-sided die. And we say, "Why don't you throw this die and we'll give you whatever it comes up? It comes in one, we'll give you one dollar — two, two, three, three, and so on. You can get paid based on the top side or the bottom side, top or bottom, you decide, but don't tell us. So if you want to experiment, I would say, "Please think top or bottom, but don't tell me. You have it?"
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:44] Okay.
Dan Ariely: [01:00:45] Keep it in mind. Now, roll the die. And you roll the die. And it comes with five on the bottom and two on the top. And now I say, "What did you pick?"
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:52] All right.
Dan Ariely: [01:00:53] Now, If you pick the bottom, you say bottom and you get five dollars. No problem. If you happen to pick the top, now you have a dilemma. Do you say the truth top and get two dollars? Or do you change your mind and you say bottom and get five dollars? And people do this 20 times. And every time they think top or bottom, they decide, they roll. They see what happened. They tell us what they chose. You run these experiments, you see that people are unbelievably lucky.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:17] Ah, yeah, much higher than chance.
Dan Ariely: [01:01:19] Yeah, much higher than chance. You know, people don't get 20 out of 20, but they get 13 or 14. So people cheat a little bit. Luck has a nice feature of focusing on the 6-1 die tosses.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:28] Yeah, right.
Dan Ariely: [01:01:29] There are ones that people get it more right than the three for one — somehow luck doesn't care so much. So we run these experiments. We try them in many countries. I grew up in Israel. I tried Israel, Israel cheats like the Americans.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:42] See, that's good to know. I lived in Israel for a while and I'll tell you a lot of my Americanisms did not go over well. Like, "Hi. How are you?" "You don't care. Why are you asking me?" "Ah, tough neighborhood, right?"
Dan Ariely: [01:01:54] Yeah. That's an interesting story. So we'll come back to this. But Francesca Gino, my Italian collaborator, he said, "Come to Italy. We'll show you what the Italians can do."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:00] What cheating looks like?
Dan Ariely: [01:02:02] Just to the same. We tried Turkey, China, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, Kenya. We tried Colombia, Japan. Anyway, we tried lots of places.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:13] What about Russia?
Dan Ariely: [01:02:15] We did not try Russia. We did try England. We did try Canada because Canadians always think that they're better than everybody else.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:20] That's right.
Dan Ariely: [01:02:20] They're not.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:21] Good. You hear that Canada?
Dan Ariely: [01:02:23] But here's the thing. I mean, you've traveled to lots of places, you know, that dishonesty feels very different in different places.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:30] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [01:02:30] How can it be that we don't find a difference? And this is an important point about social science. It's a task about cheating, but it's an abstract general task. It's something that people have not encountered before it's not embedded in their culture. So because of that, that task is checking the basic human ability to cheat a little bit and feel good about it. And from that perspective, we're all the same, just because you're born Japanese or German or American doesn't change your ability to rationalize small dishonestly.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:03] Interesting.
Dan Ariely: [01:03:04] That's true. But it doesn't mean that culture doesn't matter. In what way, culture matters? Culture doesn't change you as a human being. Culture changed you in a domain-by-domain specific way. When I asked my students, how many of them have illegally downloaded music on your computer?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:21] Right. Everybody would admit that I would imagine.
Dan Ariely: [01:03:23] Everybody admits it. They don't seem to be ashamed. They know it's illegal. I asked them about illegal downloads. It's not as if they don't know. Now, does that mean that they are corrupt as human beings? No. What it means is they took this one activity which is called illegal downloads and said, "This is not a moral question."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:40] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:03:40] This is how we do things.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:41] "I deserve the new Beyonce album.
Dan Ariely: [01:03:43] Somehow — and actually I talked to a mobster, which was very interesting.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:47] Oh yea.
Dan Ariely: [01:03:47] No, in his life. He did lots of terrible things. And you could think that he has no morals, but that wasn't true. He had two types of lives, he has a life within the family and outside of the family. Outside of the family, it was just about maximizing wealth. There was no honor, there was no morality. It was just about cheating as much as possible assuming he can get it. Inside the family, he had very strict morals. His handshake was his handshake. His words were his words. Those very strict rules. Now, that's kind of an extreme case, but this is what culture does.
[01:04:21] Culture takes domains of life and says, "This is not immoral." So for example, even bribing. Different places in the world feel differently about who you bribe. In South Africa, for example, it's perfectly fine to bribe a policeman who catches you speeding.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:39] Really?
Dan Ariely: [01:04:40] People actually talk over dinner about how little money they had to spend to get away with it. It's kind of a point of bragging. In Kenya, it seems to be quite fine to bribe the municipality. Culture does matter but the way culture matters, it doesn't change who we are.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:57] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:04:58] It changes how we apply to specific domains in life.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:00] Right. It doesn't change the degree. It just changes where we apply it.
Dan Ariely: [01:05:04] Think about infidelity. If you remember, when Mitterrand, the French President passed away, his mistress was at his state funeral with their illegitimate child.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:15] Oh my goodness.
Dan Ariely: [01:05:16] Now, imagine the US.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:17] Yeah, that just someone like — it would be front-page news
Dan Ariely: [01:05:21] Who will show up to Clinton's state funeral.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:25] Probably, not Monica Lewinsky, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:05:26] But you know, if you think about this it's are we more moral than the French in general? No, but are there some areas in life when we at least outside have very different rules about what behaviors like? So that's how culture matters. Culture is not the backbone change to humanity. It's a way that we apply our understanding about what's acceptable in specific domains. People in startups.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:52] Oh, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:05:53] You know, we talk about honesty. I asked lots of people about how they decide what a user is. People in startup — how many users do we have? And what's an active user?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:01] Right, right.
Dan Ariely: [01:06:01] What do we call this?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:02] That's how you get investment?
Dan Ariely: [01:06:03] Yeah. That's how you get — it is a party of dishonesty.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:07] I'm sure.
Dan Ariely: [01:06:09] But they all know it and they all kind of have rules about how it's actually okay in that domain to exaggerate in all kinds of — by the way, it's terrible for the industry, right? Because —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:17] Yeah, you have to inflate. It's like a recommendation letter from college.
Dan Ariely: [01:06:21] But if everybody inflates that nobody trusts these numbers so it destroys the whole thing. But anyway, think about death as a general rule not just able dishonesty is the deep downward we're similar, but culture gives us rules to how to apply our decision making in different domains separately.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:41] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dan Ariely. We'll be right back.
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Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:39] This episode is also sponsored in part by ABC's Shark Tank. In unprecedented times like these, it's great to know that the American dream lives on, at least on ABC it does. That's right. Shark Tank is back in business and it's more inspirational and crazier than ever. There's crazy mind-blowing, wild inventions that have the most driven entrepreneurs from around the country. They're bringing that into the tank. There's no better time for an uplifting show like this and with some amazing new guest sharks, including the creator of Toms shoes, Blake Mycoskie, who's been on this show, and jewelry designer and CEO, Kendra Scott. One thing is for certain in the Shark Tank, the streets are still paved with gold. From self-cleaning water bottles to pizza cupcakes, when the sharks see a great idea, the feeding frenzy is on. The Emmy-winning Shark Tank returns Friday, October 16th at 8/7 Central on ABC.
[01:09:27] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us going. To learn more about the deals you've just heard and to get them all in one place, jordanharbinger.com/deals has the advertisers and all the codes. Don't forget we've got that worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Now, for the conclusion of our episode with Dan Ariely.
[01:09:51] Now, this is all behavioral economics. How did you get interested in this field in the first place?
Dan Ariely: [01:09:57] My initial interest was not so much in behavioral economics, but I was badly injured when I was 18 and I was in the hospital for a very, very long time, about three years. And there were all kinds of things in the hospital that I just didn't like. One of them was the process of bandage removal, but there's lots of things that the nurses and doctors did to me that I thought were just wrong. When I left the hospital, I did some experiments on pain and did some other things. I found all kinds of ways in which the intuition of the nurses and doctors were just not the right ones. And I thought about, you know, you have to take the bandages of burn patients, or you have to give people medications for pain, or you do all kinds of things — what are the places where we don't have a good model of the world? We operate as if we know how the world works, but because our model is wrong, we inflict more pain and increased suffering.
[01:10:49] And I think it's true for lots of things, right? There's lots of things that we just don't understand — how the world works. And because of that, we just create more misery in the world. So think about how we waste our time, thinking about how we waste our money, how we waste our health. What is our understanding? Think about something like food. Does this very basic belief that if we only told people how much calories are in different dishes —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:14] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:11:15] — people would eat better.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:15] And that has not happened.
Dan Ariely: [01:11:17] You know what? It turns out it doesn't matter. Actually, so we did this experiment with Panda Express. You know Panda Express?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:22] I do. Yeah, I've eaten there a couple of times because I went to college and never again, it's fast food, Chinese food essentially.
Dan Ariely: [01:11:27] It's fast food, Chinese food. They mostly sell something called orange chicken.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:31] Orange chicken.
Dan Ariely: [01:11:32] Orange chicken. And orange chicken is fried twice. It has salt. It's incredibly unhealthy —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:39] Yes.
Dan Ariely: [01:11:39] — and incredibly tasty at the same time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:40] Yeah, it is delicious. They probably put a crack in there.
Dan Ariely: [01:11:43] We did a study with them in which we put calorie labeling on every item on the menu. What happened? Absolutely nothing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:49] Nothing. Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:11:50] New York City forced every fast food place to put calorie information on the menu. What happened? Basically nothing. By the way, there were a few poor neighborhoods where people started eating worse. Why?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:02] Why?
Dan Ariely: [01:12:02] Because they saw this table of money per calorie and they were trying to maximize calories per dollar, but in general, nothing happened. But we think that the only thing we need to do is to give people information and then people would change behavior. Or think about something called financial literacy. We say, "Oh, just tell people about the money, they'll behave better.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:22] Doesn't change habits.
Dan Ariely: [01:12:22] Don't work. From all the good human habits, like things we do well as Americans. They say people basically behave well on this —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:29] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [01:12:30] I think toothbrushing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:31] Yeah, okay, so really simple stuff. Washing your hands before you eat, things like that.
Dan Ariely: [01:12:35] Washing your hands. Washing your hands is not as common.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:37] Really? Ugh, that's kind of gross.
Dan Ariely: [01:12:40] Sadly, it's not. But you look at what we do well, we reduce smoking from about 40 percent to 20 percent. People wear seatbelts.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:46] Seatbelts, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:12:48] You look at those things. And you say, how many of them are driven by information that we told people, "You know, it's dangerous to drive without seatbelts. Why don't you do it?" And people say, "Oh, yes, of course." Or we told people, "Oh, you know, that smoking can kill you." And people say, "Oh, I don't have any idea. Let me change my behavior." There's not a single documented case, I think, where just giving people information helped. Think about smoking. Smoking helped by villainizing smokers with secondhand smoke.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:14] Yes.
Dan Ariely: [01:13:15] Right? The scientific evidence for secondhand smoke is very tenuous. You have to smoke a lot of it to do this, but by calling something secondhand smoke. We villainized smokers or we made them feel bad. We increased taxes on cigarettes dramatically, and we basically banned it from all kinds of places.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:31] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:13:32] It was not the information. It was not the surgeon general telling you —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:35] A warning, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:13:36] — this is unhealthy.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:37] It has to be an emotional thing as well I think sometimes.
Dan Ariely: [01:13:41] And you know villainizing people very, very emotional. Seatbelts, where annoying beeps in the car, fines, kids in the back screaming, "Why don't you have the seatbelt?" And also the reminder that you have from the belt.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:53] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:13:53] But you look at those behaviors, all of them come about, not about installation. They all come from something else. But nevertheless, we keep on having the ideology. If we only told people, people would behave decently.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:06] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:14:07] By the way, texting and driving — did you know texting and driving is dangerous?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:10] Of course I did. Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:14:11] Nevertheless, I'm sure you've texted and drove.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:14] I don't drive anymore. Even when I'm driving, I won't text and drive because — not just because, "I'm such a good person," but because I am so distractible and nothing scares me more than being in the car and then maybe I'm not on a speakerphone call or something, even the speakerphone, the hands-free, totally legal, I'm driving and I go, "Wait a minute. Where am I? Where am I going? How did they get so far away from — Oh man, I made a wrong turn, like four miles ago." If that's happening to me on the handsfree, what's going to happen when I'm typing and not even looking at the road, I know I'm going to get in trouble doing that, but I think most people either don't realize it, or they're better drivers than me or some combination of those two things.
Dan Ariely: [01:14:53] Yeah, I think they are not realizing it. It's probably a big one. So it turns out that information just doesn't help and we need to figure out what are the ways in which we can reengineer the environment to get people to behave differently. So my interest started with pain. Because I said, you know, doctors have these bad intuitions about what would make time in the hospital more miserable or less miserable.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:13] You were younger back — this is, you were —
Dan Ariely: [01:15:15] Yeah, I was just 18. Over the years, I expanded this and I thought about all kinds of places in which we don't understand how the world works. And if we understood a little bit better, we could make us a little bit better. And here's the thing. Look at this — think about how many things we have here that overcome our physical limitations.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:34] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [01:15:34] We have chairs. These are incredibly comfortable chairs. We have lights, we have air conditioning, we have all of these things because we realize we need help.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:43] There's a teleprompter behind you. I mean, this place especially is loaded. Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:15:45] What about the mental world? What about the world in which you have to choose health insurance? Or what about the world in which you have to decide how much to save for retirement? Or what kind of medical treatments? In those worlds, we somehow assume people are perfectly capable. I am just learning to let you decide how much you're going to save for retirement.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:02] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:16:03] And I'm just going to give you all the options for all the medical procedures and you decide. I mean, you go to a doctor now. And you have some illness and they say, "Who am I to tell you what to do? It's your life."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:14] You're the doctor.
Dan Ariely: [01:16:14] "Here's the medical literature. You read and you decide what is right for you." I think we need to understand how complex our mental life is, isn't it? It's getting, all the time, more complex. I mean, 50 years ago, how much did you have to know about finance in order to make good financial decisions?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:30] Yeah, not much.
Dan Ariely: [01:16:31] Not that much. You had defined benefits. You had a pension. Life was rather simple. People didn't leave as much after retirement, so you didn't have to save as much. Now, it's incredibly complex. So people need more to know more. Life is much more complex and we don't have more time to learn how to be good in all of those things. My mission is to do kind of good social engineering —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:54] Social engineering, a common theme of the show.
Dan Ariely: [01:16:56] And you know the good perspective is to basically say let's take our human limitations into account. And let's figure out what's the version of the chair — like we spend so much time making chairs comfortable. What is the version of the chair to help people figure out how much to save for retirement and how to trade off happiness now and happiness in the future? And let's figure out what is the version of these things that get people to take their medication on time, get us to eat less, all of those things. And I think there's just a ton of progress to make. And sadly, we're not doing it in the right way. I think we're actually going backwards.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:30] Why do you think that?
Dan Ariely: [01:17:31] Because we're creating a temptation society. So think about what is the goal of every company that is around you? Their goal is to attempt to do some of these good for them right now.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:43] Right now, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:17:44] So everybody wants your time, money, and attention right now. Now, you might want to be healthy in 30 years from now. Who else has this motivation? Maybe your mother.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:53] Yeah, maybe, sure.
Dan Ariely: [01:17:53] Maybe Jenny, but it mostly the entities that surround you have a very different interest in mind and they control the environment.
[01:18:01] So Dunkin' Donuts is trying to get you to eat one more donut today.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:06] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:18:07] And Facebook, they're trying to —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:07] They're doing a great job of that by the way.
Dan Ariely: [01:18:10] And Facebook is trying to get you to log into Facebook a few more times a day.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:15] Also, successful, they're knocking it out of the park. Yeah, really killing it.
Dan Ariely: [01:18:17] So we're kind of slightly helpless because they control and we make decisions that are partially based on our environment. And they designed the environment with their short-term interest in mind, not our long- term interest.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:32] And we see in the book in Predictably Irrational. There are so many interesting examples of the social engineering, both going right and going wrong from executive compensation to German judges essentially handing down harsher sentences based on a die roll, which was kind of terrifying. There's so many interesting concepts here. One thing that I found out was accidentally very apropos is as you stated that our expectations excessively influence how we perceive events. Immediately, what came to mind was the shooting of unarmed black men from police because of the expectations based on media — based on maybe things that have happened to them in their line of work that are exacerbating this problem. Do you see that pattern as well?
Dan Ariely: [01:19:13] Absolutely. The work I've done on expectation is mostly around placebo for pain when people expect the medication to be more helpful, it does become more helpful. When people pay more for medication, it's better. When people think the beer is better or the wine it's better, but there's all kinds of work on eyewitness testimony. Where you put people in the room and they observe a big-screen movie of some shooting, and they don't know that there's going to be a shooting. It is just something that happened. And then there's a shooting incident and people run and then you take them out and you say, "What happened?" And most people see the black guy is the shooter. And it's because we don't have a full video. I mean, we have the experience that we viewing life as a video, but we don't. We take snapshots of particular instances and then we fill the gaps from our brain, not from reality.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:06] Right. We think we see with our eyes, but we really see a lot with our brain and we think we experience the world with our senses, but a lot of it is done by what's called top-down. That we expect a particular thing and then we see what we expect to see. Because of that — by the way, this is not to forgive or to —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:25] Excuse, right, anybody behind it.
Dan Ariely: [01:20:26] But if somebody is making a movement and you think of them as a dancer, or you think of them as somebody who might have a gun, you're going to look at that movement in a very different way.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:36] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:20:37] You might describe even things like the speed of the movement. You might describe the direction of the movement. We're trying — our brain has an incredible capacity of trying to predict the future all the time. And to see whether our predictions are correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:51] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:20:52] So you have a sense of what reality is. You're trying to predict what it is. You're not predicting all possible futures.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:50] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:20:59] You're predicting one particular future. And then you see whether what you're predicting is actually coming into reality. So you get a lot of self-confirming evidence, just because that's what you look for, which doesn't excuse prejudice, but it actually says how important it is to eliminate. Right?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:16] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:21:17] Right because the moment you have prejudice. There's really not much you can do about it. I mean it's very hard if you have prejudice at the moment, not to have different interpretations of reality.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:29] So we as humans are constantly trying to predict that future. Or that outcome of the future action or something like this is always influenced by our prejudice. How do we do as humans as a whole when we try to predict things, are we generally good? Are we generally wrong?
Dan Ariely: [01:21:44] Well, there's a lot of things that we get wrong in predictions. In most cases, it's not too bad. Because I can say, you know, where do I predict you will walk? Or what do I predict you will say it, and so on? And if it doesn't fit, that's okay.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:57] Yeah. The consequences are minimal.
Dan Ariely: [01:21:59] If I all of a sudden have a device that can kill you, I'm looking at how you lean towards me as an aggressive mood, rather than you're trying to tie your shoe. Now, there's a lot of risks.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:09] The state depends on the stakes. Right?
Dan Ariely: [01:22:11] And here's the worst thing is the fact that those things are on people's minds all the time actually contribute to the expectation.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:19] Sure with the media and this thing becoming more common, a lot of people were asking, is this a new epidemic or are we just shedding light on something that's been there the whole, and the answer is probably it's a little bit of both. But the expectations that somebody is going to be a violent person, it's not coincidental that they happened to look exactly like these other people that had found themselves in the exact same situations over the past few months, past few years.
Dan Ariely: [01:22:43] Yeah, it's an incredibly sad self-reinforcing social phenomenon.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:49] Tell us about the new book, tell us about motivation and Pay Off.
Dan Ariely: [01:22:54] I've done lots of different types of work. Part of the thing that we actually don't know a lot about the body of academic knowledge is not at large about, is about motivation at the workplace. And the reason for that is that it's just really hard to do. So I can sell some stuff. I can give people painkillers. I can change the prices of painkillers. I can get people to steal some money from me. What is really hard to do is do basically these people's bonuses for six months and see what happens. Or to give people large bonuses, like we gave people a five-month bonus in one —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:28] Wow.
Dan Ariely: [01:23:28] — in one experiment, so they could make a tremendous amount of money. This body of work has actually, I think, took advantage of some of the early success we had because all of a sudden companies were willing to work with us. Right?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:39] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [01:23:39] So I couldn't do things like this without —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:41] 10 years ago, right.
Dan Ariely: [01:23:42] — without Intel, Microsoft, and, you know, big companies allowing us to run experiments on employees and getting them to have real bonuses in different amounts and different incentive structures. What's so amazing about motivation is that we have this incredible capacity to be motivated by things. I mean, you look at this and you say, people are motivated by the way, we help other people and by our sense of progress and by pride and by achievement. If you just wrote the equation for motivation, it would include a lot of lots of things. Mostly we don't think of any of these. Sometimes we have an intuition about some of them, but we don't think very deeply about motivation. Mostly, we think about something like, "Oh, let's just pay people." Now paying people is fine. I have nothing against paying people, but it doesn't always work, it doesn't always work well. It can sometimes backfire. You can pay for something, but some payment methods decrease motivation.
[01:24:36] And the thing about motivation, I think of it like the perpetual motion machine. So in physics, people look for this energy machine that keeps on working, working, working.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:45] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:24:46] Motivation is one of those things that if we understand it, everybody benefits. So if you work for me and you're more motivated, I'd benefit from it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:55] Right, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:24:55] You enjoy, you work more, and I get more value out of it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:58] Right.
Dan Ariely: [01:24:59] It's not a zero-sum game. There's like — the pie can become larger. So what I'm hoping is that people take a deeper look at motivation. They will think about all of the elements that I tried to describe in terms of meaning and sense of completion, identity, and so on and try to figure out, and how do we expand the pie? How do we get everybody to benefit from this?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:25:19] Some of the conclusions are really, really interesting. People are nearly twice as productive when their work has meaning and almost everyone underestimates that effect. 2x is an enormous multiplier by any standard. Imagine if all of your team members were twice as productive. And it didn't necessarily require a doubling of their salary. I mean, this is economically game-changing.
Dan Ariely: [01:25:39] That's right. And this was in a production setting where you can actually measure what people do. You know, there's some jobs like your job that's still harder to measure productivity. And the things that we should be doing and we don't do, but then there's also the things that we do and we should do. So it's actually quite sad to see how many motivation-choking behaviors. We have 360 evaluations. Sometimes bonuses — You know there's a big consulting company I talked to about their bonuses. And I said, "You know, I would love to do a study with you about bonuses and wellbeing, how much people get, what they expect to get, how it works." And the CEO told me that, "Bonus season is the most miserable season in a company."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:21] Why?
Dan Ariely: [01:26:21] He said, "Everybody just concerned all the time, thinking about it. What are their bonuses? What will be their bonuses?" because it's not just the amount of money, it's also an evaluation and it's a judgment and so on. And he said, "I don't want to draw any more attention to bonuses." And I said, "Look, the whole reason you have bonuses is to draw attention to it." Right?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:42] Yeah, it's a recruiting, it's a retention —
Dan Ariely: [01:26:44] But you know you want people to think about the bonus and work hard, and so on. If you tell me, that the fact that you have bonuses is causing people to be less happy. Then shouldn't you question bonuses to start with?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:55] Right. Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:26:57] The whole idea of bonuses is that you want people to behave in a certain way. You put the big pile of money in that direction. People would work in that direction, but if all you do is to get people to be distracted because they keep on thinking, "Will I make it? Will I not? What will Joe make? How much am I making — ?"
Jordan Harbinger: [01:27:11] Right. "Where do I fall on the hierarchy?" Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:27:11] "What's the comparison?" Is this motivating? Because if nothing else just spending lots of time on this activity.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:27:18] Yeah. One of the executive compensation studies, I guess, that you'd run, these experiments were — they experimented with making their compensation totally transparent. And the theory was, all right, if we publish all of this information for these executives, there's going to be sort of a shrinking of this because there's going to be an element of shame attached to it. But what happened instead was everybody got brutally competitive now that they could see each other's salaries and executive compensation ended up going up.
Dan Ariely: [01:27:45] Going up, yeah, because what happened was they did not compare themselves to the employees within the company. They compare themselves with other friends' CEOs in other companies.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:27:53] Right, people that they thought were on their level.
Dan Ariely: [01:27:55] I met this guy. He was in charge of compensation in a big bank. I gave a talk on compensation and relativity and comparison. And he said, "You know, now that you tell me about this, he said, I just realized that we have a database where the salaries for everybody are available."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:13] Oh wow.
Dan Ariely: [01:28:13] And he said, if that database got leaked, probably everybody, but the person at the top would be upset.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:19] Would be unhappy, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:28:20] Because everybody thinks they're better than the idiots.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:23] Of course, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:28:24] And why are the other idiots getting paid more? There was a company I visited that had a 16-point rating approach to the employees and it was in a quarter of a percent and it turned into a bonus. And the total bonus was something like $4,000. So if you had 16 points, you could get $4,000, but you know, the jump between 14.25 to 14.5 was not a big —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:47] Right, for sure.
Dan Ariely: [01:28:48] — financial issue. And people were unbelievably upset over a quarter of a point difference.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:53] Oh man.
Dan Ariely: [01:28:53] Why? Because you're judging.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:55] Hierarchy, yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:28:55] You're judging me like if you got 14 and a half, I got 14 points and a quarter.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:28:59] Right
Dan Ariely: [01:29:00] Like why are you better than me.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:29:01] It's exactly it. Yeah. It says you're better than me objectively on this scale.
Dan Ariely: [01:29:05] That's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:29:06] And I cannot have that.
Dan Ariely: [01:29:07] That's right. So we can think about all the ways in which we could increase motivation, but the easier one is to first say, let's look at the things that kill motivation. And that should be kind of step one is let's look carefully about what we're doing and make sure we don't do the bad things.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:29:22] Why aren't we good at predicting our own motivations or our own motivation killers?
Dan Ariely: [01:29:27] So there's actually lots of things that come with it. But one of the things is that the experience of flow or the experience of joy at work is a very different experience than a thoughtful experience about what motivates us. What you're trying to do is you're trying to think about this engaged process and this engaged process is actually about not thinking about things, right? The engaged process is about saying, "I love what I'm doing. I'm really enjoying it. I'm in the flow. I don't want this to stop." When you reason about that, we don't understand what that includes.
[01:30:05] So we say, "Oh, I need more money." But the fact is that for you to be fully engrossed in what you're doing and derive joy at the moment, it actually means not thinking about work. But when you think about work, you think about work, so you're kind of in a different state of mind.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:30:20] Right, right, sure.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:30:21] It's as if you're trying to — when you're awake, it's very hard to predict what's happening when you're asleep and when your sleep is hard to predict when you're awake, we engage this process of trying to deliberately think about what's going on in a state that is so different, from the state that we're in, that we don't have good intuition about that.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:30:38] Right. So all we can look at our patterns like, "Well, I know when I go to this place and I'm hungry, I ordered too many things," but that's kind of as advanced as we can.
Dan Ariely: [01:30:47] That's right. And we don't know a lot of the nuances as well. So when you say, how much do you order, we have the record of this. But when you say motivation also varies,it fluctuates, and we don't have enough experience over it. Like ordering food, you order multiple times, you have experienced, but with motivation, you would need to have lots of variations. So we also don't have lots of experience. And if you think about it, to get a good understanding of motivation, you have to try lots of different workplaces over a very long time —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:15] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:31:15] — and then be able to attribute how motivated you were to this condition. So that is why —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:20] Through all the human bias as well, right?
Dan Ariely: [01:31:23] And this is why research is so good, right? Because with research, you say, "I don't expect you as individuals to collect all this data." I know you used to do lots of things on dating. Dating is one of the things people have terrible intuitions.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:35] Yes, of course.
Dan Ariely: [01:31:36] Because how many people have you dated? I mean, if you dated a lot, it's a dozen.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:41] Yeah.
Dan Ariely: [01:31:41] I mean, how many people have you lived with for prolonged periods of time?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:44] Sure.
Dan Ariely: [01:31:44] Very, very, very few.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:45] Very few.
Dan Ariely: [01:31:45] How would you develop an intuition about what works well or not? You would have to date lots of people to try different approaches. See what works and doesn't work. We don't have that luxury.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:56] And if you were able to do that for yourself, you then have to go, "Here's what's going to work for you based on my experience." First, you have to get decades and decades of experience and then you have to show what's going to work for other people and that's just as hard.
Dan Ariely: [01:32:10] Yeah. And if you think about compensation or motivation in the workplace, these experiments are just very hard. They take lots of time. They require lots of effort and are very hard to do individually. And you know, every company has an ideology about what compensation should be like and what motivation. And it's not just about companies, about organizations and families. Everything has the notion of motivation and everybody has ideas about it. But then when you ask people like, "How sure are you that your ideas are working and there's any evidence for this?" Nobody does.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:32:41] Dan is there anything that I haven't asked you that you want to make sure you deliver?
Dan Ariely: [01:32:44] I think that we used to think that the big mysteries of life are, you know, what's in the stars and maybe microbiology — and of course, these are big mysteries. But for me, I think that the human mystery is wonderful. And even though it's just in front of us, there's so much we don't know. We drink coffee every day. The truth is there's lots of things we don't understand about the coffee. We use money every day. Lots of things we don't understand about it.
[01:33:09] We try to motivate people every day and we don't still understand what it is. And the process of social science in which we try different things and try to measure objectively, what's going on, in attributing, and trying to improve things over time, I think, is a wonderful process. So when people read or listen or think about those topics, I think, the real benefit is to say, "What can I take for my life? What are the things about my life that I'm not observing? Can I be a bit better in observing my own life? Can I try to implement something? And then hopefully also, can I try to experiment on something? Is there something I would like to try out in a few different ways and see what leads to a better outcome?"
Jordan Harbinger: [01:33:48] Thanks so much, Dan.
Dan Ariely: [01:33:49] My pleasure.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:33:52] I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a little dive into my conversation with the writer Arthur Brooks. This one was popular when it first aired and Arthur's wisdom on how to have hard conversations with those close to us is more pertinent than ever these days. Here's a quick preview.
Arthur Brooks: [01:34:08] Anytime you catch yourself comparing yourself to others, you have to stop and say, "That's what I'm doing. Don't do that."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:34:14] Oh, God, easier said than done.
Arthur Brooks: [01:34:15] Yeah, I know. But once you know that, the knowledge is power.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:34:18] I was just at a bachelor party and some of my friends were like, "Oh man, some of our friends, they just became like high school teachers." And I was like, "Well, let me stop you right there. You know how happy those people are? They figured out what they wanted to do when they were like 24. They got married to somebody they'd been dating for a while. They had kids well before age 30. They're satisfied with what they're doing in a lot of ways. They have way more free time than you and I. We cannot sit back and judge. We're wired in a way that we're always dissatisfied. They're wired in a way where that is fine. I'm jealous of that on many levels."
[01:34:49] One in six Americans has actually stopped talking to a family member because of the election. That's pretty scary.
Arthur Brooks: [01:34:53] It's almost one in five now, yeah. Politics has become super hyper attenuated in our culture where it's taken on this outsized role and importance to assume ad hominem is. This what you were saying — it's like, Jordan, made this joke on Instagram. And so therefore I know it's residing in the depths of his heart. Like I bet you he bears animus towards some racial groups, some wild leap, but that's exactly what we're talking about. Motive attribution asymmetry on the basis of ad hominem. Don't be that guy. 93 percent of us wish the country were more united. You're part of the problem when you do that.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:35:28] Yeah.
Arthur Brooks: [01:35:29] So I got a win-win-win proposition for our listeners and viewers today. Number one is I'm going to make you more persuasive. I'm going to make you happier and I'm going to start a social movement in your heart in a tiny little way to bring our country together. And that's answering hatred with love as much as you possibly can.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:35:48] For a great discussion on how we can bridge the divide in our relationships, our country, and even within our families, check out episode 211 with Arthur Brooks here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:36:00] Big thanks to Dan. His books will be listed in the show notes. He's got plenty of them. They're all good. Please use our website links if you buy the book. It does help support the show. Worksheets for this episode in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. There is a video of this interview coming on our YouTube Channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:36:22] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course. That's free. It is over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course. They contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:36:39] This show has created an association with PodcastOne. My amazing team includes Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Rob Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabe Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who loves the reasons why we do things, behavioral economics, psychology, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of this show. So please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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