Cheating and Moral Judgment in the College Class-Room: A Natural Experiment

Iowa State University
Journal of Business Ethics (Impact Factor: 1.33). 09/2004; 54(2):173-183. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-004-9463-x


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.

Download full-text


Available from: Sue Pickard Ravenscroft, Apr 12, 2014
  • Source
    • "This reason is the double standards held by the institutions themselves. The implicit or even explicit message sent out by the institutions includes lack of punishment or very lenient punishment for those caught copying, or, as the saying goes, the righteous suffer while the wicked triumph (West et al. 2004; Rettinger and Kramer 2008; Simkin and McLeod 2010). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Everywhere in the world, the academically immoral and unethical behavior of copying in academic institutions no longer shocks anyone. In this study, the authors argue that this phenomenon is prevalent even within academic institutions of education intended for the training of teachers. That is, students who soon would be responsible for the ethical code of their students. This phenomenon of copying is based on three main factors: Students, the academic institution, and the teaching staff. The students' perception of copying was examined through questionnaires and it can be stated that the phenomenon is considered significantly normative. The lecturers' perception was examined through in-depth interviews and it is emphasized that they are indeed aware of the phenomenon being widespread. Nevertheless, they also think that the institution sets double standards regarding it. On the one hand, the academic institution declares its intent to stamp out the copying phenomenon, while simultaneously encouraging it by being overly tolerant and by not addressing the issue when it does arise in disciplinary committees. Therefore, a self-reinforcing cycle emerges with the students seeing the phenomenon as significantly normative, the academic institution setting double standards, and the lecturing staff finding itself stuck between a rock and a hard place when dealing with the problem.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015
    • "Unfortunately, academic cheating or dishonesty plagues our education system by distorting the assessment of learning, thus reducing the overall efficiency of the nation's educational system (Magnus, Polterovich, Danilov, & Savvateev, 2002). Moreover, cheating also indicates a defiance of the values that are essential to good citizenship (West, Ravenscroft, & Shrader, 2004). In fact, researchers have cautioned us that cheating in college is predictive of future cheating or dishonesty in workplace (Lawson, 2004). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Using a parallel mixed-methods design, the current study examined university students’ perceptions of academic cheating through collecting and analyzing both the quantitative and qualitative data. Our quantitative findings corroborate previous research that male students have engaged more in academic cheating than females based on students’ self-reports, and that undergraduate students are less willing to discuss issues on academic cheating as compared with their graduate counterparts. Five themes emerged from the thematic analysis of the qualitative data: (1) flexible definitions for cheating, (2) environmental promotion of cheating, (3) the moral transgression of cheating, (4) cheating as an ambiguous justification, and (5) cheating as a conscious decision making process. The mixed-methods findings indicate that there is no relationship between students’ gender or classification and their endorsements of the qualitative themes. However, non-White students are more likely to endorse the theme “cheating as an ambiguous justification.” Implications for reducing and preventing academic cheating at the university level are discussed.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014 · Journal of Academic Ethics
  • Source
    • "With respect to an educational approach, the introduction of ethics courses into university curricula would seem to provide a potential means of increasing students' ethical sensitivity and, hence, behaviour; however, the effectiveness of such courses in curbing student dishonesty has not been demonstrated. While there is evidence that ethics education can lead to heightened moral development, the link between moral development and honesty is tenuous, with a number of studies (most recently, Bernardi et al. 2004 and West, Ravenscroft and Shrader 2004) indicating that the relationship between moral development and student cheating is insignificant. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Academic dishonesty is a fundamental issue for the academic integrity of higher education institutions, and one that has lately been gaining increasing media attention. This study reports on a survey of 1206 students and 190 academic staff across four major Queensland universities in relation to student academic misconduct. The aim of the survey was to determine the prevalence of academic misconduct, and to investigate the extent to which perceptions of dishonesty are shared between students and staff, as preliminary steps toward developing effective strategies to deal with the academic dishonesty/misconduct problem. Results indicate a higher tolerance for academic misconduct by students in comparison to staff, particularly with respect to falsification of research results and plagiarism, as well as considerable underestimation by staff of the prevalence of virtually all forms of student academic misconduct. Overall, the study’s findings confirm the significance of the issue of academic dishonesty within the Australian tertiary sector, indicating considerable divergence between students and staff in terms of perceptions of the seriousness and prevalence of student academic misconduct. We suggest that university administrators need to examine this issue closely in order to develop mechanisms for managing and curtailing the level of academic misconduct, since a failure to do so may lead to a further undermining of the academic integrity of the Australian tertiary sector.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2011 · Australian Educational Researcher
Show more