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Behavioral correlates of cheating: Environmental specificity and reward expectation
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Monday, July 1, The Mag Zambia. Home Art. All Visual Arts. Instant katapa Cassava Leaves that cooks in less than 30 minutes. One of the many variables that must be considered in such experiments is perceived punishment for dishonesty. The effect of punishment on cheaters was found to be dependent on the population, various environmental factors, and perceived benefit from dishonesty [ 22 — 24 ]. Gender is also an interesting factor to consider when studying academic dishonesty; many studies found that males cheat slightly more than females without a statistically significant result.
For instance, a study of more than students in Italy found no statistically significant difference between cheating in males and females, but proposed that a larger sample size or a different experiment might show one [ 25 ]. For this study, we collected and analyzed data from tests administered by teachers during class time in order to simulate the effect of the school environment on cheating.
We delve into how various factors related to social behaviors relate to dishonesty, both individually, and when working in pairs. The project was reviewed and a form was signed written consent by three members of the school IRB. The IRB reviewed the method of consent used for minor participants in this study. Although participants were blinded to the goals during testing, teachers were instructed to debrief their students after all tests were administered.
Participants were recruited through their teachers, who told students in their classes that this experiment would be taking place during class time. No exclusion criteria were applied: all students were allowed to participate, and participation was voluntary see S1 Table for a table of descriptive statistics on participants. The individual conditions consisted of a control and three experimental versions, which involved self-reported scores by the students and the recycling of other testing materials to eliminate any anxiety over repercussions.
In particular:. Control Condition: Students were told that their entire testing packet would be collected. Experimental Regular: before beginning the task, students were told that they would not be submitting the testing materials, and that test materials would be destroyed at the end of the session. Experimental Friend Priming : same as Experimental Regular, except that prior to the beginning of the task, participants were asked to list three qualities that described their best friend.
Experimental Average Priming : Same as Experimental Regular, except that prior to the beginning of the matrix search task, participants were told that an average number of matrices solved was 11 this number was meant to be significantly higher than the expected average in the control. For the pair experimental there was no priming, resulting in a test analogous to the plain self-reported version from the individual conditions. Pairs were assigned by a random number generator.
We could see if people were dishonest by comparing the averages of the classes for the control and experimental groups—a large discrepancy would indicate cheating on the part of the experimental group. The test consisted of 20 or 40 individual test and pair test, respectively 4x3 matrices where the participant had to find the two numbers that sum up to 10 in as many matrices as they could in four minutes see Fig 1 for schematic of task.
In the instructions, students were told that four randomly chosen students from each class would receive a Jolly Rancher for every matrix they correctly solved. The bottom of the figure shows a larger view of one of the matrices, with the correct answer filled in blue. The real task had 20 matrices individual condition and two independent sets of 20 matrices for a total of 40 for the pair condition. We ranked the classes on a scale of 1—3, with 1 being the most difficult, to see if class difficulty correlated with score or the self-reported characteristics. This data would be used to test if anything related to time, such as alertness, was correlated with academic dishonesty.
For this study, we mainly considered the individual conditions, although we also discuss some observations about the pair conditions as well. Focusing on individual groups, we found no statistically significant difference between the means of the different designs see Fig 3. However, the differing significance in regression models such as dependence on gender in the experimental conditions but not in the control, which has been shown to be associated with cheating in the literature leads us to believe that some cheating did occur.
The lack of pronounced cheating may have been influenced by either the nature or the magnitude of the rewards. While the latter is in line with previous studies, the former may have had a significant effect due to the fact that the experiment took place in a classroom setting see Discussion. While the distributions are visibly different between conditions compare Fig 2 , there is no significant difference in means between individual conditions. First, we examined how demographics age, gender, number of siblings , self-perception honesty, popularity, intelligence , and environmental factors class level, block influenced individual score across univariate models.
Our study also found a difference between cheating in boys and girls. Indeed, when we pooled all the experimental conditions together, the gender gap turned out to be statistically significant, with boys cheating more by about 1. We also found interesting results concerning self-perception. In the Experimental Average condition, score and honesty were negatively correlated—a one point decrease in honesty corresponded to a score of an additional 1.
Other demographic, self-perception, and environmental variables were ultimately not predictive of score. All of the aforementioned statistically significant results survived appropriate controls. The mean score in our control group was 6. Our standard deviation was also significantly larger than that shown in previous studies. Potentially due to the sample size and to testing irregularities that emerged after the conclusion of the experiment in post-experiment interviews with teachers, none of the variables we tested for in the pair experiments were significant predictors of score.
So, we will focus our analysis on the individual versions of the test. That is, even in the control group, the mean did not even come near to having a mean double that of the individual tests the pair average was just under 65 percent higher than the individual average. This study strongly suggests that setting has a large impact on cheating behaviors. Some studies found in the literature were done in universities, but it appears as though they were not done in the classroom during regular class hours, all but negating the effect of the school environment on the study. While this is useful for certain things, since it eases restrictions on generalizing results, it does not accurately factor in the effects of societal norms on cheating.
As we noted in the results, the distribution of scores in the control was very different from the experimental conditions, which leads us to believe that some people did in fact cheat, just not enough to make a noticeable difference in our relatively small sample size. Additionally, it is important to note that since participants were told in advance how they would be scored self-reported or not , it is possible that those who knew they would be graded by an authority put in more effort than those who knew they could cheat.
This might also contribute to the apparent lack of dishonesty in the experimental conditions. That is, lying may have at least partially compensated for the lack of effort.
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This study further suggests that the type of reward is important in whether or not dishonesty will be widespread. The dampening of a cheating effect might mean that the classroom setting is prone only to one type of dishonesty, that is, cheating that concerns grades. If someone expects a very specific benefit from their actions, they may be less likely to cheat for a different reward of the same magnitude. This would make our rewards for success seem unimportant, and thus not result in the widespread cheating that is reported by surveys in high schools around the country.
This idea makes sense because morality is enforced in schools outside of graded assignments, and seems to actually change the behavior of students for the better when things like grades are not concerned [ 26 ]. When all the conditions are pooled together, class level was found to correlate with score. This finding supports the notion that environment influences motivation as well—the data may suggest that students in more difficult classes were more motivated to do well even on something as unrelated to their studies as this matrix search task. This study confirms earlier findings that cheating is not correlated with intelligence, since different level classes had a similar difference between control and experimental conditions.
Self-reported honesty was found to be correlated with score in the Experimental Average condition, and although this result only appeared in one condition, we consider it important for several reasons. Firstly, it seems to support the idea that some cheating occurred, just not enough to be picked up by the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. This is because the negative coefficient of the regression is in line with logic—higher scores, presumably achieved by cheating, result in lower self-reported honesty. Furthermore, this finding seems to stress the importance of the surroundings on participants—the presence of the average was the only difference between this and the Experimental Regular group, which leads us to believe that the very idea of norms brought on by the mention of an average made people self-report more truthfully than in other experimental groups.
Lyn Worsley- Liars and cheaters, part 1
Self-reported intelligence was correlated with score in the control, but not in the experimental conditions, leading us to believe that cheaters understand that their new score is not representative of their ability. The larger standard deviation in the experimental conditions, probably caused by sporadic dishonesty, made the correlation not statistically significant. We found that self-reported popularity was not significant in any case, possibly because of the open-ended nature of popularity. The negative correlation between time of day and dishonest behavior is interesting in that it suggests a possible link between alertness and cheating, and also because it could have important policy implications for testing.
The small age range in the high school made correlation between it and score unlikely, and we accordingly found none. We showed a statistically significant correlation between the score of males and the score of females, especially in the experimental conditions. Since there was no significant gender gap in the control, we believe that males cheated more when given the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, an overall model of all the individual versions also saw males performing better, likely due to dishonesty.
Although for our study, age did not seem to be linked with this effect, the difference between this and an earlier study which found no gender gap in young children implies that genders begin to differentiate in morality sometime between 12 and This makes sense in biological terms—more white matter in the brain develops the ability to cheat and lie.
Also, adolescent boys are known for being significantly more impulsive than their female counterparts, which might cause them to cheat once and get trapped in the endless cycle of cheating and stress. This result is especially intriguing because it shows that maturity, which generally increases with age, does not consistently offset the biological and environmental factors that make cheating more likely.
As mentioned earlier, pairs significantly underperformed when compared to individuals taking the test. This is probably due to two factors: any cheating that occurred in the individual versions was negated because of limited time to cooperate, and time constraints did not allow for proper divvying up of work and focus on the completion of the task. Thus, teachers might use group work on certain tasks to reduce widespread cheating. However, they would have to remember that two people in a group work at a different pace than as individuals, a fact that has been often overlooked in the literature.
The participants were then asked the time they were taking the test, their age, their perceived intelligence, popularity, and honesty. We ranked the classes they were taking the test in by level of difficulty. The most important findings were: 1 the societal norms that go hand in hand with test-taking in school as administered by a teacher significantly dampen small-scale cheating—perhaps suggesting a trend of environment-specific rewards setting off cheating; 2 reminding participants about societal norms by giving them an average score made people report honesty more truthfully; 3 a matrix search task is appropriate for these kind of studies because results do not correlate with scholastic achievement; 4 males seem to cheat more than females; and 5 later time of day dampens cheating in high school students.
Furthermore, the idea that situational rewards seem to affect cheating rates is interesting and could be important in curbing academic dishonesty in the future. For future work, it would be interesting to examine the idea of environment-dependent rewards, which have been suggested by a few studies in the literature, much further. This would involve looking at different settings, which would likely give vastly different results.
For instance, a child might be willing to act in a dishonest fashion to obtain a balloon at a party, but be less inclined to cheat on a similar task when alone. It would be interesting to look at the responses to the priming question to see how certain words correlate with score. This might require a larger sample size and additional data collection.