While this disingenuous manipulation of information may have caused financial harm, it also shows just how easily deception can occur with the click of a mouse by people sitting in cubicles.
Greater vigilance is needed to detect today’s digital dishonesty. In China, for example, economic data is rarely trusted. Even the country’s next premier, Li Keqiang, admits that Chinese statistics are often “man-made” and meant to be used “for reference only.”
Or take the digital touching up of photos in women’s fashion magazines using Photoshop or other picture-editing software.
This month, Seventeen magazine promised it will never change the images of a model’s body or face shapes. The decision was the result of an online campaign led by a 14-year-old girl in Maine fed up with friends’ complaints about not meeting the body images portrayed – often falsely – in such magazines. (Teen Vogue is now the target of a similar campaign.)
What can help people avoid being deceptive and dishonest? According to social psychologist Dan Ariely at Duke University, the best answer is not so much fear of regulatory punishment or even fear of God. Rather, in his new book, “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty – How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves,” he says the answer may lie in assuming that most people prefer to be honest – and just need the right kind of reminder.