Ownership is not limited to material things. It can also apply to points of view. Once we take ownership of an idea — whether it’s about politics or sports — what do we do? We love it perhaps more than we should. We prize it more than it is worth. And most frequently, we have trouble letting go of it because we can’t stand the idea of its loss. What are we left with then? An ideology — rigid and unyielding.
I always found the appeal to the market gods a bit odd. Why would the market fix mistakes instead of aggravating them?
In a world where everyone is behaving honestly, any dishonesty constitutes a big infraction. But, in a world where many people are behaving dishonestly, and the news is filled with stories of their infractions, even big infractions can feel small to the perpetrator.
It is true that from a behavioral economics perspective we are fallible, easily confused, not that smart, and often irrational. We are more like Homer Simpson than Superman. So from this perspective it is rather depressing. But at the same time there is also a silver lining. There are free lunches!
We talk about honesty, but the reality is we have lots of human values, and they are not all compatible. We don't always tell the truth about everything, no matter what the consequences.
Dishonesty is all about the small acts we can take and then think, 'No, this not real cheating.' So if you think that the main mechanism is rationalization, then what you come up with, and that's what we find, is that we're basically trying to balance feeling good about ourselves.
It is helpful to think of people as having two fundamental motivations: the desire to see ourselves as honest, good people, and the desire to gain the benefits that come from cheating - on our taxes or on the football field.
What kind of people would be able to rationalize better than other people? Better storytellers, right? Creative people, right? Because if you're creative, you find more ways to cheat and still yourself a story about why this is okay.
Disasters are usually a good time to re-examine what we've done so far, what mistakes we've made, and what improvements should come next.
Because cheating is easier when we can justify our behavior, people often cheat in small amounts: We can come up with an excuse for stealing Post-It notes, but it is much more difficult to come up with an excuse for taking $10,000 from petty cash.