(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies ★★★½

This informative documentary basically explains what the study of behavioral economics is about. Through skillful editing it tells of rigorous experiments (mostly within academia, but not entirely) carried out by the well funded Dishonesty Project, as explained by Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics at Duke University. His experiments were set up to quantify the basics of common bad behavior such as lying, cheating, rationalizing etc. Professor Ariely is an entertaining lecturer; and his illustrations of his methodology are fascinating. The film also intercuts with visuals and interviews stories of people who were caught in various real-life scandals (a bicyclist who doped, a stock trader who profited from inside information, an NBA referee who became enmeshed by organized crime in a gambling scandal, a housewife who lied about her residence to get her children into a better public school are examples). Some of these went to prison; but their stories are illuminating in validating what the abstract scientific research project discovered.

If the film making had any flaw, it might be that it was too intelligent, too fast moving for me to stay focused for the full hour and a half of abstract science being explained. Still, the film broaches a subject that is at the forefront of behavioral economics and makes it intelligible for the public.