The Root Of Honesty

by Patrick Appel

Veronique Greenwood reports on the science of truth-telling:

[Harvard’s Joshua Greene and Joseph Paxton's] study suggests that honesty in particular is automatic only for some, which [John Bargh, a Yale social psychologist who studies automaticity,] interprets to mean that some portion of the population might be naturally honest, while others struggle with telling the truth. “It could potentially be some of the most intriguing evidence for group selection,” Bargh speculates, adding that the results are reminiscent of the evolutionary idea that “cheaters” and “suckers” coexist in a specific ratio in the animal kingdom. The classic example is parasitic cuckoos and the hapless birds that raise the cuckoos’ young. Bargh wonders if the ratio of “cheaters” to “suckers” exists in our species as well.