Here are some quotes easily applied to taxes that might entice readers to read the article and then, when published, the book.
What we have found, in a nutshell: Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats—just by a little. Except for a few outliers at the top and bottom [the top and bottom are those small percentages who will not cheat at all and those at the other extreme who will cheat big], the behavior of almost everyone is driven by two opposing motivations. On the one hand, we want to benefit from cheating and get as much money and glory as possible; on the other hand, we want to view ourselves as honest, honorable people. Sadly, it is this kind of small-scale mass cheating, not the high-profile cases, that is most corrosive to society.
* * * *
"[T]he level of cheating was unaffected by the probability of getting caught."
* * * *
The results of these experiments should leave you wondering about the ways that we currently try to keep people honest. Does the prospect of heavy fines or increased enforcement really make someone less likely to cheat on their taxes, to fill out a fraudulent insurance claim, to recommend a bum investment or to steal from his or her company? It may have a small effect on our behavior, but it is probably going to be of little consequence when it comes up against the brute psychological force of "I'm only fudging a little" or "Everyone does it" or "It's for a greater good."
* * * *
Another set of our experiments, conducted with mock tax forms, convinced us that it would be better to have people put their signature at the top of the forms (before they filled in false information) rather than at the bottom (after the lying was done)
* * * *
In short, very few people steal to a maximal degree, but many good people cheat just a little here and there. We fib to round up our billable hours, claim higher losses on our insurance claims, recommend unnecessary treatments and so on.Addendum on 6/5/12:
NPR Staff, The 'Truth' About Why We Lie, Cheat And Steal (NPR 6/4/12), article and audio, here.
On how only a few people cheat a lot, but a lot of people cheat a little
"Across all of our experiments, we've tested maybe 30,000 people, and we had a dozen or so bad apples and they stole about $150 from us. And we had about 18,000 little rotten apples, each of them just stole a couple of dollars, but together it was $36,000. And if you think about it, I think it's actually a good reflection of what happens in society."Addendum on 6/8/12:
Why We Cheat Just Enough to Feel Good (WSJ 6/7/01), videocast of interview of Dan Ariely, here. The IRS discussion begins around minute 6.