Cheating and Moral Judgment in the College Classroom: A Natural Experiment

University of Arkansas; Iowa State University
Journal of Business Ethics (Impact Factor: 0.96). 09/2004; 54(2):173-183. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-004-9463-x

ABSTRACT The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a natural experiment involving academic cheating by university students. We explore the relationship of moral judgment (as measured using the defining issues test) to actual behavior, as well as the relationship between the honesty of students self-reports and the extent of cheating. We were able to determine the extent to which students actually cheated on the take-home portion of an accounting exam. The take-home problem was not assigned with the intent of inducing cheating among students. However, the high rate of observed cheating prompted the instructor to return to class and ask the students to provide information on their motivation. The students'' responses are the data analyzed in this natural experiment. We found that in a simple regression the relationship between moral judgment scores and cheating behavior was insignificant. However, when we tested whether including Utilizer scores (i.e. the extent to which people select actions based on notions of justice) affected the relationship of cheating and moral judgment we found that Utilizer affected the relationship significantly. Finally, we found that moral judgment and honesty were not related, but higher levels of cheating behavior related to less honesty.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Purpose – This research aims to measure compliance in a tax experiment among students. The aim of the study is to investigate relationships between claimed behaviour in a questionnaire and actual behaviour in an experimental environment, together with different behaviours between males and females, and different age cohorts. Design/methodology/approach – A total of 630 undergraduate Commerce students at a New Zealand university completed a questionnaire on attitudes towards the tax system. The students subsequently participated in a simulation experiment requiring responses to hypothetical tax evasion decisions. Individual reward payments were contingent on the outcome of these tax evasion decisions. Questionnaire responses, which captured intended behaviour, were compared with actual behaviour in the experiment. Findings – The study finds more compliant behaviour among older students and students who have been at university longer. It also finds female students demonstrate more ethical responses in their behaviour than male students. In contrast to extant literature, it finds a positive relationship between students indicating a preference for compliant behaviour in the questionnaire, and behaviour in the experiment. This leads support for the use of Defining Issues Tests (or similar instruments that capture moral development intentions) in ethics education research, and challenges recent studies that find a gap between intended and actual behaviour. Research limitations/implications – As with all experimental research, the design is necessarily an artificial representation of the real world. Thus, the ability to generalise from this research is restricted. Originality/value – Much of the research into the influence of ethics education on accounting students focuses on student claims of how they would respond in a hypothetical situation as measured by a Defining Issues Test or similar instrument, in order to provide a measure of ethical development. In contrast, this study adopts a behavioural approach. The findings indicate that Defining Issues Tests are likely to be an appropriate tool for ethics education research.
    Pacific Accounting Review 04/2012; 24(1):80-100.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We use data from a survey of 215 experienced practicing accountants to provide their level of agreement with various content categories of accounting ethics courses. Our results indicate that top choices of content include current ethical issues, professional codes of conduct, ethical judgment and decision-making processes and models, corporate codes of ethics, whistleblower protection, record retention, and theories of ethics. The respondents also somewhat agreed that ethics courses can influence attitudes and behavior, but they were neutral on whether ethics courses can reduce instances of Enron-like fraud. We discuss the implications of these results for accounting education and research.
    Advances in Accounting Education. 08/2012; 13:213-236.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Using Reidenbach and Robin's Multidimensional Ethics Scale, this study investigated the relationships between background variables and students' ethical evaluations, judgments, and behavioral intentions using three scenarios involving dilemmas related to academic dishonesty. The sample included 436 master's students and 142 doctoral students. The study found that the participants used a combination of ethical philosophies to make ethical decisions. The respondents judged improper citations more harshly than acts of inappropriate authorship or the falsification of data. The PhD students generally considered behaviors related to plagiarism and falsification to be more unethical than the master's students did, though no gender differences were found.
    Ethics & Behavior - ETHICS BEHAV. 01/2012;


Available from
May 22, 2014