Do we all “Fake It” ? I listended to a excellent Freakanomics podcast over lunch on “faking it” that makes a lot of sense. No, I’m not talking about “faking it” in the bedroom (although I’m sure some faking does go on there), but “faking it” in our day to day lives.
I think we all “fake it” on a fairly regular basis. Not only that, but we’re taught do so from an early age. Just think of when a parent “encourages” their child to apologize to their sibling or play mate. Do we really think that the apologizing child feels sorry for what they’ve done? Most of the time they don’t, but they are being taught how to get along, and perform socially acceptable acts that help make up the civilized portion of our society. Most people would agree that this sort of “faking it” is a good thing in that it reduces tension in groups, and helps them function more smoothly.
There are other kinds of faking it of course. John Edwards (the american politician) faked it at the end of the US presidencial campaign, pretending that things were going well in his life and marriage, until it came out that the woman he was having an affair with was close to giving birth to their child. I think that is the kind of faking it that most people cringe at.
Faking it goes on in religion as well. One example of this is in the Mormon religion I was raised in. As a teenager I was taught that if I told others that I “knew” certain religious “truths” were true, even when I didn’t actually know they were true or false, that I would come to know for myself that they were true. This could be described as the “fake it until you make it” method of learning. While this may be a useful tool for learning to do certain tasks, I don’t believe that it is effective in determining truth.
So the next time my wife asks me how I like the new dress she bought, should I “fake it” or be completely honest no matter what the consequences?
The part of Freakonomics that I remember is the portion where Levitt and Dubner reveal that teacher’s in the states whose wages are attached to how their students perform on year end exams cheat on behalf of their students. If you read any Alfie Cohen (http://www.alfiekohn.org/index.php) he believes that provincial and state exams tell you which communities have money (high scoring schools) and which communities have little to no money (low scoring schools). If up to $10,000 of your wage was dependent upon your students performance and you were located in a high needs school where students come to class hungry, worried about their passed-out parent, and take care of younger siblings after school rather than completing homework, would you cheat? Hell yes!
Tonia, you’re right. When we give incentives, we can get all sorts of un intended behaviours happening when people start to game the system.