Cheating: An Epidemic

After Andrew’s lecture on plagiarism I found myself wondering why people cheat. At a world renowned university, filled with some of the greatest young minds the world has to offer, why would it be necessary to inform students about cheating? Well as it turns out, academic dishonestly is somewhat of an epidemic at schools across America.

According to David Jaffe of Stanford, 78% to 98% percent of high school and college aged students have admitted to cheating at some point throughout their academic career. Whether it be sneaking an answer off of your neighbor’s exam or something as blatant as plagiarism, cheating occurs everywhere. Even more shocking, Jaffe reported that in a poll of the best high school students in America, over 80% of participants admitted to cheating. Jaffe claims that the most likely to cheat are Business and Engineering students, Fraternity or Sorority members, and younger students. Given the composition of our class, I’d say that at least half of us are prone to cheat. But why do people cheat?

It turns out that Matthew Williams, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia decided to ask the same question. Williams conducted a three stage study, in which several factors were measured. In the first study Williams measure cheating susceptibility based off of the dark triad, being Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. Machiavellianism is effectively the manipulation and use of others for one’s own gain. Narcissism is characterized by self obsession and entitlement. Psychopathy being antisocial behavior with little or no regard to others well-being. In his study of over 200 students, he found that over 73 percent had admitted to cheating at some point. In observation Williams found that those with possessing traits were the most likely to cheat, with those possessing Machiavellian traits to be the second most likely.,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/18ixicxdyt75ljpg.jpg–c89bpZxG–/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/18ixicxdyt75ljpg.jpg

In his next study Williams measured plagiarism rates among paper submissions from students using an online plagiarism database called turn-it-in. Williams found that of the over 200 students surveyed fifteen percent had plagiarized. Williams then attempted to determine the cause of this. He looked at a lack of intelligence and again psychopathy. Again Williams found that psychopathy was a key factor in the cheating among the students.

The results of the study are quite revealing. Williams seems to have found a correlation between psychopathy and a student’s propensity to cheat. Just because certain students possessed traits of psychopathy did not necessarily indicate that they were going to cheat. Rather these results revealed that they were more likely to cheat. This is fitting as people who are psychopathic possess little to no remorse, signifying their lack of regret and regard for cheating.

Overall, cheating is something that should be rebuked and avoided entirely. As students at one of the nation’s top universities we should pride ourselves on getting a degree in the fairest, most true way possible. Integrity and honesty are values that a Penn Stater must possess, so before you copy and paste, or share answers with a friend think twice.

3 thoughts on “Cheating: An Epidemic

  1. Katherine Guerney

    I think that the experiment you described is interesting but I also think that there are some flaws. Williams said that the students with the possessing traits of machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy were the ones most likely to cheat. But how did he know and keep track of which students had these traits since there were over 200 students. Additionally a student’s likelihood of cheating also comes with many confounding variables. For example maybe friend influence, busy schedule, degree of pressure from parents, and where you live can all aid to the students act of cheating. Therefore I think it would be really difficult to categorize certain groups like frat/sorority members and certain majors to be more apt to cheat than others since the actions of student bodies can vary by the university. I found this article on why some students cheat and how parents and schools should respond in order to try and stop the cheating from continuing.

  2. Hannah Morgan

    In my high school, the majority of those who cheated were at the top of the class. In a competitive academic environment, students felt that they had to cheat or they would fall behind in the race for valedictorian. Cheating was almost contagious and if one person had their french notes hidden beneath their desk during a test, it wan’t long before the rest of the class did. It seems logical that cheaters demonstrate some level of psychopathic behavior, given the nature of cheating and how much it benefits solely the individual without any regard for how it affects others.

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