Unshamedly Ethical - September 2011 003

“Fraud” read one of the headlines in yesterday’s Herald. What is new I thought, but then I was most concerned to read that a fellow professional accountant is facing charges of tax fraud. I was concerned, not only that the fraud occurred, but that a member of a profession that prides itself on its ethics and values should be involved, whatever the merits of the case. I was reminded of some research conducted by the Massachusett’s Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2005.

“The dishonesty of honest people”
The study was entitled “The dishonesty of honest people” . First, a group of people were asked to take a test and were financially rewarded for each correct answer. The room was set up as such that it made cheating relatively easy – an answer book was left near at hand or something of that nature. Then the economists conducting the study simply sat back and watched to see how many people would cheat.

229 students were tested in three ways. First, they were simply asked to take the test. This helped the researchers to establish how many people would cheat under ‘normal circumstances’. Next they were asked to recall 10 books they had read while at high school, following which they then took another test. The effect of memory recall had no impact on the number of people cheating. Lastly, they asked the participants to recall as many of the 10 Commandments as they could, following which they then took another test. What they learned was staggering. The simple act of reminding the participants of a set of moral behaviours virtually eliminated cheating altogether!

The conclusion drawn by the researchers
The conclusion of the researchers is hugely relevant: they state that people are prone to allow themselves a level of dishonesty without thinking themselves to be dishonest. People deceive themselves, in other words. And the most remarkable finding was that the reminder of the 10 Commandments virtually eliminated that self-deception. “The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” (Ps 119:130 NKJV)

The 10 commitments (not to be confused with the 10 Commandments!) on the Unashamedly Ethical commitment forms are an amazing reminder to all signatories of the moral standards which God lays out for us in the Bible, and they are written in such a way as not to exclude anyone on the basis of religion.

I have made several presentations to various organisations, including the one to which the accused professional belongs, churches and church bodies on committing to be unashamedly ethical. Frankly I have been disappointed in the response to my call. As an honest person, are you susceptible to dishonesty? Why not join me in making a commitment and placing it in a prominent position in your home of office to remind you!

Log onto www.unashamedlyethical.com, take up your smart phone and type JOINUE.NET.

Mike Smith