Cheating experiments

The article “Cheating Lessons” was divided into three parts and talks about the many experiments that were conducted to find out people’s incentive to cheat on multiple situations. The article itself was written based on Dan Ariely’s (The duke economist and behavioral theorist) trade book called “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves”.

Cheating lessons part 1

The first part of “Cheating lessons” starts by talking about how the experiments have to create environment where there are ways, stimuli or even incentive for people to cheat.  The control condition was to design an assignment that would allow the research to perceive the average level of dishonesty in adults. The experimental condition was that the researchers would alter the assignment in various ways to see whether the level of cheating would increase or decrease based on the factors.

Ariely had concluded from his experiments that most people would be willing to cheat when given the chance to. He called this “Fudge Factor” and it helps him to explain most cheating real life situation. The paragraph 3 and 4 on this link provide more details about the usefulness of “fudge factor”.

The article then continue by explaining how many researchers have tried to change the behaviors of the cheaters; especially students in higher education. However, Ariely believed that we should focus on the structure of the environment instead of the many individual possible cheating inducement factors of the students. This is mainly because he believes that they are too many dishonesty in our daily life and changing it would be a very difficult task to do. The paragraph 9 and so on this same link would provide more details about what could have been changed to reduce the willingness to cheat.

The article then gave the example of the “Princess Alice” experiment to demonstrate a situation where they videotaped a group of children of age 5-9 who were told that if they succeed in throwing a Velcro ball at a target and sticking it, they would be given a reward. This task was seen considered almost impossible for the participants to ensure that the children would have more incentive in cheating.

The group of children were divided into 3 groups under 3 different conditions:

  • The first one was put in a room with the presence of a friendly female observer.
  • The second one was put in a room without any supervision.
  • The last one was put in a room where the children were told that an invisible figure called “Princess Alice” watching over them.

The results were that children are less willing to cheat when there is the presence of an adult and higher when they are left alone in the room or in the room with “Princess Alice”. However, we should also noted that some children did not believed that “Princess Alice” existed. Only one children who were uncertain about the existence of “Princess Alice” was still willing to cheat despite the uncertainty. The first part of the article concluded that these conditions are similar to certain circumstances within our college level classroom and that we should avoid allowing students to be in these conditions to minimize the cheating. The paragraph 11 and so on would describe on this same link the full details of this experiment.

Cheating lesson part 2

The part 2 of this article focuses on the stimuli that would induce cheating. Whether higher stakes would induce people to cheat. They looked into the psychologist George M.Diekhoff’s researches, who targeted American and Japanese students and look at their cheating behavior. He used the basic strategy of gathering data by listing varieties of academic cheating behavior and asked the students whether they used to commit any of those behavior during their time in college.

He found out that 29% of the American students acknowledge that they cheated at least in one exam while the Japanese students rate was at 55%. The difference in the percentages was due to the greater pressure to succeed in an exam for the Japanese. This was believed to be caused by their learning environment where Japanese students had only one big major final exams which will determines their grade. On the other hand, Americans students are usually given many short exams and quizzes more frequently over the year, allowing them to progress over their past mistakes. This means that Japanese students are more pressured to succeed because one exam can determine whether they pass or fail their year. Thus, the article concluded that rare and high-risk exams causes people to be more willing to cheat. To read more about this experiment, please refer to the paragraph 1-10 on this link.

The article also gave another example about the Chinese civil service exams where it would reward the well-achiever of high income and stable place within the Chinese government. This means that even peasant would be given the chance to get a better sustaining life. These exams were held rarely and also were very high-stakes exams because failing would be consider as a shameful position and make the person questioned themselves if they should study again for two to three years before the next exam. The punishment for cheating in this exams were extremely severe because it could lead to death sentences. Despite these severe punishments, all kind of cheating still occurs due to the high-stake factors and demonstrate that preventive measure does not stop cheating. To read more about this experiment, please refer to the paragraph 14-19 on this same link.

The conclusion of part 2 was that we should provide a learning environment with frequent and many low-stake assignment when possible. However, they still would be certain cases where high-stakes exams are still required. The article suggested that we should prepare the students to be ready by giving them frequent assignment of similar format where high-stakes exams skills would need to be put to use so that the students can practice it more often.

Cheating lesson part 3

Part 3 of the article starts by talking about the cheat rate over the past 50 years. He starts by telling us about the first survey of cheating in higher education conducted by a Columbia students named William J.Bowers during 1963. The results were that 75% of the students admitted that they cheated at least once during their time in college. The author then compared this results to the 2002 to 2010 results by looking into “Cheating n College: Why Students Do It and What Educators Can Do About It”, a book that includes results from many surveys over the past years. The results were that 60-70% of the students admitted that they cheated before. The author of the article questioned the reliability of these results because the researches in the book used Web to gather information while Bowers used paper survey. Nonetheless, the rate of cheating is still very high because it exceed the average of the students meaning that even in a small class of 10 students, at least 6 of them would cheat.

The article still concluded similarly to part 1 and 2 where high-stakes exams induce cheating and the frequency of being able to put those skills into practice. The article further explains how low-stakes exams is beneficial because it helps student to learn better. They also stated that the best prevention against cheating would be to provide students enough tools and interest for them to learn it in a morally way. The article also highlighted that learning through low-stakes evaluations such as quizzes helps student learn better than the usual traditional way through text-book, notes or highlighted text.

The article then talked about Henry L. Roediger III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke’s experiment. They divided their participants into 4 groups and ask them to learn and memorize 40 English-Swahili word pairs for 4 study sessions. Afterward the experimenter gave them a week before coming back to recall their words. The study finds out that repetition in testing helps the students to learn faster as repetition also allowed them to have better retention of the words. You can read further details of the study on this link.

Therefore, the article concludes that repetitive learning, rehearsals, frequent testing allow the student to learn better and reduce their incentive to cheat because their memory are consistently being used, helping the students to gain confidence.

By Dhaam Sakuntabhai



1 thought on “Cheating experiments

  1. Isaac Chandler Orndorff

    First, I would like to reccomend that you go over the article and put more in about class related things like causation adn reverse causation. What are you trying to answer? Likewise, you probably should put a live link in for every lesson so we can refer to it, and likewise you cite it right there. Personally, I find it difficult to not cheat more in classes I am forced to take but don’t enjoy, like math or science. I should probably mention that I don’t cheat and think it’s morally wrong, but I have felt the need to look at my neighbor’s test from time to time if I feel the test is unfair or if I just don’t enjoy what I’m learning and don’t feel the need to study more. The question I have is testing really a benefit? I’m sure there’s been many studies on the subject, but I’m curious if testing and grades create better learning or does it just induce a huge amount of stress? This may be something I blog about in the future, and something I think is incredibly relevent for us as college students.

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