Producer-director to discuss lying

Cintas Institute for Business Ethics to host award-winning Yael Melamede

Photo courtesy of TedxCharlottesville

Xavier will get a taste of Hollywood next week when the Cintas Institute for Business Ethics hosts Academy Award-winning producer and director Yael Melamede on Monday.

Melamede will present her documentary (Dis)Honesty—the Truth About Lies. This documentary explains why people lie and is based on behavioral science research conducted by Duke University professor Dan Ariely.

The event is hosted by the Cintas Institute for Business Ethics, whose director is Dr. Paul Fiorelli, a professor of legal studies at Xavier.

The documentary offers insight into the different methods people use to lie as well as the situations in which people feel compelled to lie. Using a mix of personal anecdote and analytical research, Melamede composed a film that reveals certain truths about the extent to which people will lie and why they do so.

Ariely, a behavioral economist, researched the rationalizations people make when they lie, and Melamede showcases that research through stories of people such as spouses, cyclists, financers and professional league referees, all who have cheated in some way for personal gain.

More specifically, in an experiment discussed by Ariely, subjects take a timed math test and are given $1 for each problem they are able to complete within that time frame. When the test was complete, subjects shredded their test and simply declared how many questions were correct. Based on this experiment, researchers found that people who cheated their correct answer tally slightly created the “most financial impact,” totaling a loss of $36,000.

However, these people who cheated even slightly still considered themselves to be good people and did not necessarily feel guilty for their small lies.

The results of the experiment tie into the idea of rationalization, which can occur in any situation, including unethical business practices.

The Cintas Institute for Business Ethics is an organization with the goal of “promoting awareness of the importance of business ethics” and applying that awareness to the Jesuit mission of Xavier University.

The institute focuses on students, faculty, administration and the larger business community and seeks to offer resources to these three groups while fostering dialogue about ethical business practices in the workforce.

According to Fiorelli, by incorporating ethical thinking into the courses in the Williams College of Business, students will be more exposed and thus more prepared for potential “dilemmas” they might encounter in their future jobs.

The advisory board of the institute acts as a “sounding board for the best (business) practices” concerning topics such as compliance, ethics and data privacy.

Fiorelli conducts a lecture called “Why Good People Do Bad Things” which coincides with the film presentation taking place this upcoming Monday.

Additionally, the institute is planning to hold more events this semester about topics like data ethics, seeking to expand the scope of knowledge of everyone in the business community. Lectures conducted by the organization call for not only students but also members of the greater business community to attend and engage in discussion about ethical business practices and values.

The faculty members of the Williams College of Business coordinate these events and aim to help their students become more informed for their future careers in business. Professor Ellen Hurst from the department of economics was responsible for planning the event hosting Melamede.

Through providing the presentation of (Dis)Honesty—the Truth About Lies, Fiorelli hopes that students will become more self-aware and will be able to prevent themselves from falling down a “slippery slope of rationalization.”

Owning up to mistakes in a corporate context and not trying to justify errors or misdeeds is one of the first steps in creating a more ethical climate in which all can cooperate, Fiorelli said. By promoting an ethical “corporate culture,” or the shared values of a company among all levels of employees that dictate actions and behavior, the organization wishes to foster standards that align with the Jesuit mission of being for and with others.

The screening of (Dis)Honesty—the Truth About Lies will take place in the Kennedy Auditorium and attendance is free. The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the movie presentation at 6:30. A Q&A session will follow the viewing.

By: Alex Ackerman ~Guest Writer~