Theft – Predictable Irrationality

In the book Predictable Irrationality, Dan Ariely conducted a series of studies on college students to demonstrate how predictably irrational human beings are. One of his studies measured dishonesty. What he discovered was fascinating. Here is one of his findings:

In a dormitory at MIT, he placed a six-pack of Diet Coke in several communal fridges. As one might guess, within 72 hours all of the Diet Coke in all of the fridges were gone. They were apparently pilfered by local residence. As most college students will testify, it’s very common for food to go missing in communal environments. In several other fridges, however, he left a plate of six one dollar bills. To his surprise, after 72 hours all of the money remained. Why is it that the students would not steal money, but they would steal Diet Coke?

His study revealed that it is easier for human nature to rationalize theft when it is a least one step removed from cash. One might not steal a dollar, but one might steal a soda worth a dollar. People are less likely to steal from the petty cash drawer at work, but those same people might consider taking home a Sharpe or a few mechanical pencils.

Theft is theft. Regardless of what is common or what is rationalized, men and women of faith are called to live at a higher standard.


“Dishonest scales are detestable to the LORD, but an accurate weight is His delight” Proverbs 11:1 HCB

“The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.” Ephesians 4:28 HCB


For more information on Ariely’s work, see Amazon affiliate link:

website security