In this short talk, psychologist Dan Ariely tells two personal stories that explore scientific conflict of interest: How the pursuit of knowledge and insight can be affected, consciously or not, by shortsighted personal goals. When we're thinking about the big questions, he reminds us, let's be aware of our all-too-human brains.
"........ The most difficult thing, of course, is to recognize that sometimes we too are blinded by our own incentives. And that's a much, much more difficult lesson to take into account. Because we don't see how conflicts of interest work on us. When I was doing these experiments, in my mind, I was helping science. I was eliminating the data to get the true pattern of the data to shine through. I wasn't doing something bad. In my mind, I was actually a knight trying to help science move along. But this was not the case. I was actually interfering with the process with lots of good intentions. And I think the real challenge is to figure out where are the cases in our lives where conflicts of interest work on us, and try not to trust our own intuition to overcome it, but to try to do things that prevent us from falling prey to these behaviors, because we can create lots of undesirable circumstances. ..."