Are People Inherently Honest? Essay
Submitted May 1, 2012 for
Prof. Dr. Roberto Weber and Dr. Suzann-Viola Renninger
BOEC0308 – Business Ethics and Social Science
There are numerous theories that attempt to explain the motivation behind people acting in certain ways. This paper will address three of these theories, apply these theories to how people choose to behave honestly or dishonestly, and will attempt to determine whether or not people are inherently honest.
Before looking into the motivation behind people’s decision to be honest, it is important to define some key terms in order to fully understand and explore what it means to be inherently honest. Merriam-Webster defines honest as “free from fraud or deception,” or …show more content…
Another theory that attempts to explain the motivation behind behaving honestly is focused on the consequences that will result from behaving honestly or dishonestly. Uri Gneezy’s paper on the role of consequences in lying looks at how different benefits and costs influence one’s decision to behave honestly or dishonestly. From his studies, he comes to a number of conclusions describing how people conduct a cost-benefit analysis when deciding to lie or not. First, he finds that people are particularly sensitive to their personal gain when deciding to lie, meaning that they place a high priority on personal gain in their cost-benefit analysis. He also finds that people also tend to lie less when the lie harms another party. However, this harm plays less of a role in choosing not to lie compared to the increased gains from lying. This suggests that the marginal personal gain from a lie is greater than the marginal harm that is caused from the lie. Because people are constantly trying to maximize their personal utility, these findings display how one will behave dishonestly when doing so maximizes their utility. This suggests that people do not inherently behave honestly, but rather behave in a way that will create the most