Taya R. Cohen, PhD
Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior & Theory
Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business
+1 (412) 268-6677
Collaboration and Conflict Research Lab
Wake Forest University, with the help of a very generous grant from The John Templeton Foundation, welcomes proposals for the "The Honesty Project" funding initiative. We aim to support scholars working on the study of honesty, especially early career-scholars who often have new and interesting ideas but who have not yet benefited from traditional funding sources. However, more senior investigators are also strongly encouraged to apply.
This $1.4 million dollar RFP is aimed at empirical studies designed to identify the determinants of honesty, the requirements for honesty, the degree to which people are honest, the consequences of honesty for relationships, groups, organizations, and institutions, and the reception of honesty. Proposals can request between $50,000 and $200,000 for projects not to exceed two years in duration. We hope to make 7 to 10 awards.
We welcome empirical projects from all scientific fields. We particularly envision applicants from psychology (personality, social, and developmental), organizational behavior, economics, and political science in particular, but other fields as well. Interdisciplinary teams of psychologists working with faculty in other disciplines, especially philosophy, are encouraged (but team-based proposals are not required).
Fellowship Directors: William Fleeson, R. Michael Furr, and Eranda Jayawickreme, Wake Forest University, and Taya Cohen, Carnegie Mellon University.
We frequently have the opportunity to lie, cheat, steal or mislead others. Yet it seems clear that honesty is very important. By acting honestly with others, we show respect for others and demonstrate that we value their autonomy. Honesty promotes trust and credibility, and prevents harm. It fosters healthy relationships, and strengthens organizations and societies. Hence, there is little controversy that honesty is a virtue (at least in most situations) and that it is important to a good society.
People can value being honest in their lives for many diverse reasons. Honesty promotes true belief and knowledge. True belief is of high intrinsic value, and one of the strongest ways to get true belief is for people to be honest. Functioning societies require honesty in most of their members. Every kind of relationship, from friendship to marriage to business to law, requires honesty to function well. This is because all relationships and interactions require making oneself vulnerable to others, and making oneself vulnerable to others requires trusting that the others will act in a certain way. This trust requires the general presumption that the others are being honest about their beliefs, intentions, and so forth. Honesty also promotes better relationships by creating understanding, closeness, and trust.
Honesty is also important because people have the right to make their own decisions based on as much knowledge as is available to them. Withholding knowledge from them is denying them this right. Finally, it is inconsistent to lie. When you lie, you are hoping that the recipient will believe you and will thereby be deceived. However, if everyone lies routinely, or even only you lie routinely, then no one will believe you and no one will be deceived.
We hope to inspire work on this virtue by focusing on five Big Questions:
The term 'honest' can apply to a variety of different objects. One object is an action, another object is mental activity, and a third object is a trait. All three of these are possible foci of study in funded projects.
Most centrally, 'honesty' as an action is meant to refer to telling the truth as the person sees it at the moment. As a mental activity, 'honesty' is meant to refer to avoiding self-deception, attempting to find the truth, attempting to be fair in evaluating information, valuing truth, and being motivated to be honest. As a trait, 'honesty' is meant to refer to relatively consistent individual differences in the degree of enacting honest behaviors and engaging in honest mental activities. Because 'honesty' is a morally-relevant term, we see honesty in this sense as a virtue.
However, the scope of honesty is open to broader conceptions in this competition. Honesty can be extended readily to include lack of deception. Honesty may also be extended to include cases of following rules vs cheating, respecting ownership vs stealing, and keeping promises.
At this point, we are hesitant to provide an extensively developed characterization of honesty that has to be accepted by all the RFP applicants. Indeed, one of the main goals of the project is to gain greater clarity about what honesty is in the first place. For this, we want researchers to think expansively rather than having to follow a prescribed detailed definition. At the same time, we do see the value in giving a general or 'thin' characterization of honesty that should govern the work of all the scholars involved in the project. This characterization, we suggest, is that honesty is concerned with being truthful in thought and action. For instance, misleading others or being a liar demonstrates a lack of concern with being truthful. We are open to projects that do not directly study truthfulness, as long as they explain how they relate to honesty as truthfulness.
Letters of Intent are due by November 9, 2020. We will review these letters of intent and invite a portion of the applicants to submit a full proposal. We plan to invite full proposals by December 18, 2020. Submission of full proposals are due by March 15, 2021. We plan to make final award decisions by May 28, 2021 for research to begin on August 15, 2021.
Letter of Intent (LOI) Stage
Applicants are required to submit:
Letters of Intent should be submitted to the application portal at [URL to be added soon]. Acceptable file formats are .doc, docx, and PDF. Questions about the application process can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. All LOI materials must be received no later than November 9, 2020.
Full Proposal Stage
Those applicants who are invited to submit full proposals must include:
Full proposals should be submitted to the application portal at [URL to be added soon]. Acceptable file formats are .doc, docx, and PDF. Full proposals will be accepted only from applicants who have been invited to submit by the fellowship directors, on the basis of the LOI phase. Full proposals must be received no later than March 15, 2021.
Selection criteria will include: (1) significance, approach, innovation, investigators, and environment, (2) relevance of the project to the RFP goals, and (3) likelihood of continuing work on honesty in the future. Please see NIH criteria for more information (http://cms.csr.nih.gov/PeerReviewMeetings/ReviewerGuidelines/). All applications must be submitted in English and all payments will be made in US dollars.
The PI must have a Ph.D. and be in or contracted to a faculty position at an accredited college or university or pre-approved non-profit research institution (write us for pre-approval) before May 1, 2021. We will give preference to proposals from PIs who are within ten years of receiving their Ph.D. at the time of submission. However, more senior investigators are strongly encouraged to apply and alternatively can be included on proposals in other roles. Applicants can have their name on only one proposal for this competition, and if funded, cannot be funded in the philosophy funding competition, although they can be named on them.
Applicants from non-US countries are allowed. Because we cannot award grants of more than $200,000 USD, as such please budget in your own currency and please consider the implications of currency fluctuations.
The PI of funded projects must commit to the following:
All questions should be directed to: