HONESTY AND INTELLECT

Honesty and intellect are not necessarily linked. Often brilliant and talented people behave dishonestly. Researchers are known to fall in love with their own theories so much that they don’t see the fine line between honesty and dishonesty. Often, they become so convinced about the rightness of their theories that they start believing that they only have the right to be right. Honesty is a shifty business. It requires more than truthfulness. We can deceive and mislead others without telling a lie. Keeping quiet when one supposedly should speak can be a form of dishonesty. An act of silence that is intended to cause another person to believe something that isn’t true is deception. Honesty is not always the best policy because, often, the truth hurts. Our feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much earlier than our conscious thoughts. Our emotions can set us on a course of biased thinking. Emotions work faster than reason. Being biased, we suffer from ‘motivated reasoning’. More than the new facts, our already existing beliefs skew our thoughts. These skewed thoughts colour even our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. We give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs. We refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial. We retrieve thoughts that are consistent with our beliefs. We rationalize thoughts and build arguments that suit our thoughts. We like others to change their minds, but we resist change. We love to be as we are. We want to protect our sense of self. It is not the facts but values that convince us to make decisions. In a strongly competitive environment, ambitions and vanity sometimes completely outweigh ethics and a sense of fairness. We are always on the lookout to maximize our own payoffs. The higher the rewards from being dishonest, the higher is the extent to which an individual engages in dishonest behaviour. We are after all, not that dishonest as we try to balance our desire for personal gain with our willingness to be good persons.