ArticlePDF Available

Telling young children they have a reputation for being smart promotes cheating


Abstract and Figures

The present research examined the consequences of telling young children they have a reputation for being smart. Of interest was how this would affect their willingness to resist the temptation to cheat for personal gain as assessed by a temptation resistance task, in which children promised not to cheat in the game. Two studies with 3- and 5-year-old children (total N = 323) assessed this possibility. In Study 1, participants were assigned to one of three conditions: a smart reputation condition in which they were told they have a reputation for being smart, an irrelevant reputation control condition, or a no reputation control condition. Children in the smart reputation condition were significantly more likely to cheat than their counterparts in either control condition. Study 2 confirmed that reputational concerns are indeed a fundamental part of our smart reputation effect. These results suggest that children as young as 3 years of age are able to use reputational cues to guide their behavior, and that telling young children they have a positive reputation for being smart can have negative consequences.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Psychological Science
1 –3
© The Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0956797617721529
Short Report
Praise is one of the most commonly used forms of
reward. It is convenient, is nearly effortless, and makes
the recipient feel good. However, praising children for
being smart carries unintended consequences: It can
undermine their achievement motivation in a way that
praising their effort or performance does not (Cimpian,
Arce, Markman, & Dweck, 2007; Kamins & Dweck,
1999; Mueller & Dweck, 1998; see Dweck, 2007). In this
study, we investigated whether the negative conse-
quences of praising children for being smart extend to
the moral domain, by encouraging cheating.
There is some prior work suggesting that evaluative
feedback can influence children’s moral behaviors (Fu,
Heyman, Qian, Guo, & Lee, 2016; Mueller & Dweck,
1998; Zhao, Heyman, Chen, & Lee, 2017). Telling 5-year-
olds (but not younger children) that they have a reputa-
tion for being good leads to a reduction in their
cheating, presumably because they are interested in
maintaining this reputation (Fu etal., 2016). We pro-
pose that telling children that they are smart, a form of
ability praise, may have the opposite effect by motivat-
ing them to cheat to appear smarter. In a study consis-
tent with this possibility, Mueller and Dweck (1998)
found that 10-year-olds exaggerated how well they had
performed after receiving ability praise. However, little
is known about whether ability praise can influence
young children’s moral behavior. The present research
addressed this question by comparing the effects of
ability and performance praise on preschool children’s
Participants were 300 preschool children in eastern
China: one hundred fifty 3-year-olds (age range = 3.08
to 4.00 years, M = 3.62, SD = 0.27; 71 boys, 79 girls)
and one hundred fifty 5-year-olds (age range = 5.01 to
6.00 years, M = 5.38, SD = 0.33; 78 boys, 72 girls). To
measure cheating, we used a version of a well-
established peeking paradigm (see Heyman, Fu, Lin,
Qian, & Lee, 2015), in which an experimenter hides a
playing card (with a number from 3 to 9, excluding 6)
behind a barrier and children guess whether it is greater
or less than 6. The children are told that they can win
a prize if they guess correctly on at least three of the
six trials.
The session began with a practice trial in which the
children were told that they had guessed correctly. They
were then randomly assigned to three conditions (50
children in each condition): In the ability condition,
children were told, “You are so smart.” In the perfor-
mance condition, they were told, “You did very well
this time.” In the baseline condition, no praise was
The real guessing game, which was identical across
the three conditions, followed this practice trial. On
each trial, the children were instructed not to peek.
Unbeknownst to them, the game was rigged to ensure
success on two of the first five trials and failure on
three. On each trial, the children were told whether
they had been successful, but no praise was given.
During the pivotal sixth trial, the experimenter left the
room for 60 s after eliciting a promise not to peek at
the card. Acts of cheating, defined as any obvious forms
of peeking (i.e., the child got out of his or her seat or
721529PSSXXX10.1177/0956797617721529Zhao et al.Smart Praise
Corresponding Author:
Kang Lee, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of
Toronto, 45 Walmer Rd., Toronto, Ontario M5R 2X2, Canada
Praising Young Children for Being
Smart Promotes Cheating
Li Zhao1,2, Gail D. Heyman3,4, Lulu Chen1, and
Kang Lee5
1Institutes of Psychological Sciences, Hangzhou Normal University; 2Zhejiang Key Laboratory
for Research in Assessment of Cognitive Impairments, People’s Republic of China; 3Department
of Psychology, University of California, San Diego; 4Department of Psychology, Zhejiang
Normal University; and 5Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto
Received 3/31/17; Revision accepted 6/28/17
2 Zhao et al.
leaned over the barrier), were recorded by a hidden
A pretest was used to assess basic numerical under-
standing, and the 3 children who failed (all 3-year-olds)
completed an analogous color-guessing task instead
(see the Supplemental Material available online for
more details about the procedure, including the pre-
test). Because our analyses showed that the pattern of
results did not differ when these 3 children who failed
the pretest were excluded, we report results that
included the data from all participants.
Figure 1 shows the cheating rate for each age group
and gender, broken down by condition. There was
more cheating in the ability condition than in the other
conditions overall, in each age group, and within each
gender (ps < .05 for all chi-square tests).
We conducted a binary logistic regression analysis
in which condition, age, gender, and their interactions
were the predictors of cheating. The final model was
significant, χ2(3, N = 300) = 15.68, p = .001, −2 log
likelihood = 399.13, Nagelkerk R2 = .068, and revealed
two significant effects. One was a main effect of condi-
tion (Wald = 10.12, df = 2, p = .006). A priori compari-
sons with the ability condition as the reference showed
that cheating rates were significantly higher in the abil-
ity condition than in the performance and baseline
conditions—performance condition: β = 0.78, SE = 0.29,
Wald = 7.26, df = 1, p = .007, odds ratio = 2.19, 95%
confidence interval (CI) = [1.24, 3.87]; baseline condi-
tion: β = 0.82, SE = 0.29, Wald = 7.93, df = 1, p = .005,
odds ratio = 2.27, 95% CI = [1.28, 4.02]. The other sig-
nificant effect was a main effect of gender; compared
with girls, boys cheated more across the three condi-
tions, β = 0.55, SE = 0.24, Wald = 5.39, df = 1, p = .020,
odds ratio = 1.74, 95% CI = [1.09, 2.77]. No other effects
were significant (ps > .1).
Cheating latency did not differ significantly across
conditions (ps > .1).
We examined how different forms of praise affect
young children’s moral behavior. The results showed
that 3- and 5-year-olds who were praised for their abil-
ity on a single occasion were more likely to cheat than
3-Year-Olds 5-Year-Olds Boys Girls Total
Participants Who Cheated (%)
Ability Condition
Performance Condition
Baseline Condition
Fig. 1. Percentage of participants who cheated in each age group, within each gender,
and overall, broken down by condition.
Smart Praise 3
their counterparts who were praised for their perfor-
mance, or not praised at all.
It is likely that ability praise promotes cheating because,
unlike performance praise, it is a generic form of language
that implies the presence of a stable ability (e.g., smart-
ness) that underlies performance (Cimpian etal., 2007).
In our study, ability praise may have motivated children
to cheat in order to uphold the positive trait assessment
or the reputation of being smart (Zhao etal., 2017).
Surprisingly, the effect was the same for 3-year-olds and
5-year-olds. This finding demonstrates that even 3-year-
olds are sensitive to the difference between ability and
performance praise, and that their understanding of
ability overlaps with that of older individuals. This find-
ing also raises questions about what kind of conceptual
understanding is required for ability praise to have
behavioral consequences.
Our findings demonstrate that ability praise can
promote cheating in young children. More broadly,
they build on evidence suggesting that subtle social
cues have the power to shape children’s thinking and
behavior (Bryan, Master, & Walton, 2014) and suggest
that researchers cannot rule out the importance of
socialization effects in young children just because
there are no obvious sources of direct teaching or
Action Editor
James K. McNulty served as action editor for this article.
Author Contributions
L. Zhao, K. Lee, and G. D. Heyman developed the study. L.
Chen collected the data. L. Zhao performed the data analysis
and drafted the manuscript. K. Lee and G. D. Heyman pro-
vided critical revisions. All the authors approved the final
version of the manuscript for submission.
We thank Brian Compton for his helpful comments on the
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with
respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.
Supplemental Material
Additional supporting information can be found at http://
Open Practices
All data have been made publicly available via the Open
Science Framework and can be accessed at
p2z8a/. The complete Open Practices Disclosure for this
article can be found at
suppl/10.1177/0956797617721529. This article has received
the badge for Open Data. More information about the Open
Practices badges can be found at https://www.psychological
Bryan, C. J., Master, A., & Walton, G. M. (2014). “Helping” ver-
sus “being a helper”: Invoking the self to increase helping
in young children. Child Development, 85, 1836–1842.
Cimpian, A., Arce, H. M. C., Markman, E. M., & Dweck, C. S.
(2007). Subtle linguistic cues affect children’s motivation.
Psychological Science, 18, 314–316. doi:10.1111/j.1467-
Dweck, C. S. (2007). The perils and promises of praise.
Educational Leadership, 65(2), 34–39.
Fu, G., Heyman, G. D., Qian, M., Guo, T., & Lee, K. (2016).
Young children with a positive reputation to maintain are
less likely to cheat. Developmental Science, 19, 275–283.
Heyman, G. D., Fu, G., Lin, J., Qian, M. K., & Lee, K. (2015).
Eliciting promises from children reduces cheating.
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 139, 242–248.
Kamins, M. L., & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Person versus pro-
cess praise and criticism: Implications for contingent
self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology, 35,
835–847. doi:10.1037//0012-1649.35.3.835
Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence
can undermine children’s motivation and performance.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 33–52.
Zhao, L., Heyman, G. D., Chen, L., & Lee, K. (2017). Telling
young children they have a reputation for being smart
promotes cheating. Developmental Science. Advance
online publication. doi:10.1111/desc.12585
... This bias could differentially affect the division of cognitive labor if intellectual competence is more highly prized by children than physical competence. There is again little evidence in the current literature to speak to this (though see Asaba & Gweon, 2019;Zhao et al., 2018 for evidence that children are motivated to appear competent). ...
... We suspect that the key reason for this change is in the overt skill comparison used in Experiment 1 ("Sam was even better than you"), which tends to lead to reward-maximizing behavior in schoolaged children. For instance, preschool children who were told they had a reputation for being smart were more likely to cheat (Zhao et al., 2018), and children who were outperformed by peers persisted longer than when peers performed worse (Magid & Schulz, 2015). In contrast, children in Experiment 2 only learned about the relative age of the partner, which potentially spared them from these competitive feelings. ...
... Yet another possibility is that children were driven to repair their reputation following an unfavorable comparison (see Shaw et al., 2014 for an example within the literature on fairness). A growing body of work suggests that children are very concerned with maintaining their reputation (Silver & Shaw, 2018), particularly about competence (Asaba & Gweon, 2019;Zhao et al., 2018). Preliminary evidence of this possibility comes from Experiment 2, where we found that younger children claimed to be more skilled regardless of how old their partner was, whereas older children matched skill to relative age in both conditions. ...
Full-text available
Strategic collaboration according to the law of comparative advantage involves dividing tasks based on the relative capabilities of group members. Three experiments (N = 405, primarily White and Asian, 45% female, collected 2016–2019 in Canada) examined how this strategy develops in children when dividing cognitive labor. Children divided questions about numbers between two partners. By 7 years, children allocated difficult questions to the skilled partner (Experiment 1, d = 1.42; Experiment 2, d = 0.87). However, younger children demonstrated a self‐serving bias, choosing the easiest questions for themselves. Only when engaging in a third‐party collaborative task did 5‐year‐olds assign harder questions to the more skilled individual (Experiment 3, d = 0.55). These findings demonstrate early understanding of strategic collaboration subject to a self‐serving bias.
... At what age might we expect for children to make such predictions? On one hand, children as young as 3 seem to care about appearing competent to others and modify their behavior accordingly (e.g., Asaba & Gweon, 2019;Zhao et al., 2017Zhao et al., , 2018, which suggests they have at least an implicit understanding of how one might try to seem smart. Moreover, as we note above, we made the task of inferring reputational motives very easy in our tasks by explicitly emphasizing that one individual was broadly reputationally motivated (while the other was not). ...
... As noted in the Introduction, this work has distinguished between the more implicit forms of reputation management present in younger children (i.e., by 3-5 years of age) and the explicit reasoning about reputation present in older children (i.e., by 8 years of age; Engelmann & Rapp, 2018). This previous work finds that preschool-aged children modify their own behavior in order to shape others' impressions of them (e.g., Asaba & Gweon, 2019;Zhao et al., 2017Zhao et al., , 2018 and it is only much later in development that children understand that others modify their behavior in order to create similar impressions (Banerjee, 2002b;Heyman et al., 2014;Silver & Shaw, 2018). Our studies fit into the latter category by demanding that children explicitly reason about reputation on our tasks; thus, younger children's struggle may reflect difficulty with some of the skills noted previously as being seemingly important for success at this kind of reasoning. ...
Children engage in reputation management to appear favorably to others. The present studies explore when children use reputational motives to predict others’ behavior. Four‐ to 9‐year‐old children (N = 576; 53% female; approximately 60% White) heard stories about two kids: one who cares about being competent, and one who cares about appearing competent. Across five studies, with age, children predicted the reputationally motivated child would be more likely to lie to cover up failure (OR = 1.97) but less likely to seek help in public (vs. private; OR = 0.53) or downplay success (OR = 0.66). With age, children also liked this character less (OR = 0.56). Implications of these findings for children's reputation management and achievement motivation are discussed.
... Studies have observed that generic praise encouraged helplessness whereas praising specific actions encouraged repeating the behavior. Children find it necessary to uphold their reputation by whatever means, rather than exhibit the desired behavior (Zhao et al., 2018). ...
Full-text available
The use of reinforcement is widely researched and has been demonstrated as an efective method to increase desired, appropriate behavior and to decrease problematic behavior at both the individual and group level. This study aimed to identify what types of reinforce- ment Jordanian preschool teachers employ in the classroom and if they perceive their stu- dents as benefting from reinforcement. A total of one hundred seventy-eight (178) teach- ers participated in the study. An open-ended questionnaire was used to collect data from preschool teachers. The data were then translated from Arabic to English. Four main cat- egories were identifed from the data analysis process: verbal, tangible, social and activity reinforcement. Analyses revealed that teachers emphasized verbal reinforcement the most, favoring general over specifc praise, followed by tangible, social and activity reinforce- ment as the least. Moreover, teachers reported twenty-three (23) benefts of using rein- forcement with children at this age, which were grouped into six main themes: behavioral specifc, internal specifc, social specifc, learning specifc, perceived child preference, and general. Teachers reported that reinforcement directly and positively afect children. Rec- ommendations for teachers are also presented.
... Children begin to understand the relevance of reputation in structuring social relations during the preschool years. Between the ages 3 and 5, children develop a concern for reputation and their behaviors show the well-known signature of self-promotional strategies: increased norm compliance in public compared with private settings (Engelmann & Rapp, 2018;Fu et al., 2016;Rapp et al., 2019;Yazdi et al., 2020;Zhao et al., 2018). Around this age, children also start to contribute to the creation and maintenance of others' reputations. ...
People rely on reputational information communicated via gossip when deciding about with whom to cooperate, whom to believe, and whom to trust. In two studies, we investigated whether 5- and 7-year-old children trust in gossip when determining a course of action. In Study 1, 5- and 7-year-old German-speaking peer dyads (N = 64 dyads, 32 female dyads) were presented with a collaborative problem-solving task (e.g., deciding together what a creature eats). Each child individually received conflicting information about the solution from a different informant (e.g., one proposed rocks; the other proposed sand). Each child additionally heard gossip about the informant's reputation: one informant had a good reputation; the other had a bad reputation. In the experimental condition, the reputation was relevant to the task (honesty), whereas it was irrelevant in the control condition (tidiness). Seven-year-old dyads, and 5-year-old dyads to a lesser extent, settled on the items suggested by the informant with good reputation in the experimental but not in the control condition. Only 7-year-old children explicitly referred to the information conveyed via gossip, engaging in metatalk about the reputations of the informants. In Study 2, we replicated these findings in a more controlled experiment in which 5- and 7-year-old American English-speaking children (N = 48, 27 girls) tried to convince an adult partner who proposed the item suggested by the informant with bad reputation. Thus, starting around age 5, and more reliably at age 7, children selectively rely on gossip in identifying trustworthy individuals in their collaborative reasoning with partners. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... The current findings build on previous evidence that various forms of nudges can influence moral behavior (e.g., Bryan et al., 2014;Evans et al., 2018;Fu et al., 2016;Heyman et al., 2015;Lee et al., 2014;Zhao et al., 2017Zhao et al., , 2018. Most of the approaches used in prior research have been explicit and overtly social. ...
Cheating is a common human behavior but few studies have examined its emergence during early childhood. In three preregistered studies, a challenging math test was administered to 5- to 6-year-old children (total N = 500; 255 girls). An answer key was present as children completed the test, but they were instructed to not peek at it. In Study 1, many children cheated, but manipulations that reduced the answer key's accessibility in terms of proximity and visibility led to less cheating. Two follow-up studies showed that the answer key's visibility played a more significant role than its proximity. These findings suggest that subtle and seemingly insignificant alterations of the physical environment can effectively nudge young children away from acting dishonestly. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... They are less likely to cheat in a guessing game, if they are told that they have a positive reputation to maintain, even if nobody is watching them and if not to cheat conflicts with their personal interest (Fu et al., 2016b). In contrast, telling children that they have a reputation for being smart results in more lying in 3-5-year-olds in a guessing game (Zhao et al., 2018). This suggest that even 3-year old children are responsive to reputational cues in their morally relevant behavior. ...
Full-text available
Research suggests that even young children engage in strategic behaviors to manipulate the impressions others form of them and that they manage their reputation in order to cooperate with others. The current study investigated whether young children also lie in order to manage their, or their group’s, reputation in front of ingroup and outgroup members. Five-year old children ( n =55) were randomly assigned to an individual reputation condition or a group reputation condition. Then, they played a mini dictator game in which they could share privately any number of their or their group’s stickers with an anonymous child. Participants then met ingroup and outgroup members, established through a minimal group design, via a pre-recorded, staged Skype call. Group members asked the participant how many stickers she, or her group, had donated. Results revealed that children stated to peers to have donated more than their actual donation, with no differences between conditions and no difference toward ingroup and outgroup members. Findings suggest that by 5years of age, children use lying as a strategy to manage their reputation.
There is extensive research on the development of cheating in early childhood but research on how to reduce it is rare. The present preregistered study examined whether telling young children about a story character's emotional reactions towards cheating could significantly reduce their tendency to cheat (N = 400; 199 boys; Age: 3 to 6 years). Results showed that telling older kindergarten children about the story character's negative emotional reaction towards rule violation significantly reduced cheating, but telling them about the positive emotional reaction towards rule adherence did not. These results show that children as young as age 5 are able to use information about another child's emotional reaction to guide their own moral behavior. In particular, highlighting another child's negative emotional reaction towards a moral transgression may be an effective way to reduce cheating in early childhood. This finding, along with earlier cheating reduction findings, suggests that although cheating is common in early childhood, simple methods can reduce its occurrence. We examined whether telling young children about a story character's emotional reactions towards cheating or honesty would affect their decision to cheat. Younger and older kindergarten children heard a story about a character who either cheated and felt sad about cheating or acted honestly and felt happy about being honest. Telling older kindergarten children about the story character's negative emotional reaction to rule violation significantly reduced their actual cheating. The results indicate that we can use stories about characters’ negative emotional reactions towards cheating to influence young children's moral decisions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
Why do so many adolescents cheat despite judging that cheating is wrong? Two studies tested a new model of cheating in high school. In Study 1, 85 high schoolers in the Western U.S. reported their perceptions, evaluations, and motivations surrounding their own and hypothetical cheating. In Study 2, 83 teachers reported their views about cheating; we also analyzed course syllabi. About half of the adolescents reported unintentional cheating, and many judged their own cheating—but not hypothetical cheating—as acceptable. Decisions to cheat were responses to competing pressures, low value placed on the assignment, and other considerations. Study 2 revealed teacher‐student disagreements about cheating, and minimal content about academic integrity in syllabi. The findings supported the proposed model of adolescent cheating.
We care about what others think of us and often try to present ourselves in a good light. What cognitive capacities underlie our ability to think (or even worry) about reputation, and how do these concerns manifest as strategic self-presentational behaviors? Even though the tendency to modify one’s behaviors in the presence of others emerges early in life, the degree to which these behaviors reflect a rich understanding of what others think about the self has remained an open question. Bridging prior work on reputation management, communication, and theory of mind development in early childhood, here we investigate young children’s ability to infer and revise others’ mental representation of the self. Across four experiments, we find that 3- and 4-y-old children’s decisions about to whom to communicate ( Experiment 1 ), what to communicate ( Experiments 2 and 3 ), and which joint activity to engage in with a partner ( Experiment 4 ) are systematically influenced by the partner’s observations of the children’s own past performance. Children in these studies chose to present self-relevant information selectively and strategically when it could revise the partner’s outdated, negative representation of the self. Extending research on children’s ability to engage in informative communication, these results demonstrate the sophistication of early self-presentational behaviors: Even young children can draw rich inferences about what others think of them and communicate self-relevant information to revise these representations.
Full-text available
Developmental research has the potential to address some of the critical gaps in our scientific understanding of the role played by cultural learning in ontogenetic outcomes. The goal of this special section was to gather together leading examples of research on cultural learning across a variety of social contexts and caregiving settings. Although the field of developmental psychology continues to struggle with the persistent problem of oversampling U.S. and Western European populations, we argue that the articles in this special section add to the growing evidence that children everywhere draw on a repertoire of cultural learning strategies that optimize their acquisition of the specific practices, beliefs, and values of their communities. We also identify future directions and outline best practices for the conduct of research on cultural learning.
Full-text available
In contemporary Western society, many adults use praise to boost children's self-esteem. Accordingly, they might praise those who seem to need it the most: children with low self-esteem. In this article, we review research showing that certain types of praise can backfire, especially in children with low self-esteem. Adults are inclined to give children with low self-esteem person praise (e.g., “You're smart!”) and inflated praise (e.g., “That's incredibly beautiful!”). Paradoxically, such praise can lower these children's motivation and feelings of self-worth in the face of setbacks (e.g., when they struggle or fail). Lowered feelings of self-worth, in turn, might invite more person praise and inflated praise from adults, creating a self-sustaining downward spiral. We propose a transactional model to shed light on this apparent praise paradox, and we describe the model's implications for theory and research.
Full-text available
The present study examined whether having a positive reputation to maintain makes young children less likely to cheat. Cheating was assessed through a temptation resistance paradigm in which participants were instructed not to cheat in a guessing game. Across three studies (total N = 361), preschool-aged participants were randomly assigned to either a reputation condition, in which an experimenter told them that she had learned of their positive reputation from classmates, or to a control condition in which they received no such information. By age 5, children in the reputation condition cheated less often than those in the control condition even though nobody was watching and choosing not to cheat conflicted with their personal interest. These findings are the first to show that informing children that they have a positive reputation to maintain can influence their moral behavior. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Full-text available
This study examined how informants' traits affect how children seek information, trust testimony, and make inferences about informants' knowledge. Eighty-one 3- to 6-year-olds and 26 adults completed tasks where they requested and endorsed information provided by one of two informants with conflicting traits (e.g., honesty vs. dishonesty). Participants also completed tasks where they simultaneously considered informants' traits and visual access to information when inferring their knowledge and trusting their testimony. Children and adults preferred to ask and endorse information provided by people who are nice, smart, and honest. Moreover, these traits influenced the knowledge that young children attributed to informants. Children younger than 5 years of age reported that people with positive traits were knowledgeable even when they lacked access to relevant information.
Acts of dishonesty permeate life. Understanding their origins, and what mechanisms help to attenuate such acts is an underexplored area of research. This study takes an economics approach to explore the propensity of individuals to act dishonestly across different contexts. We conduct an experiment that includes both parents and their young children as subjects, exploring the roles of moral cost and scrutiny on dishonest behavior. We find that the highest level of dishonesty occurs in settings where the parent acts alone and the dishonest act benefits the child. In this spirit, there is also an interesting, quite different, effect of children on parents’ behavior: parents act more honestly under the scrutiny of daughters than under the scrutiny of sons. This finding sheds new light on the origins of the widely documented gender differences in cheating behavior observed among adults, where a typical result is that females are more honest than males.
What are the individual demographic characteristics that correlate with unethical behavior? To answer this question we randomly interviewed 541 passengers who used the bus in Reggio Emilia (Italy). Exploiting the high level of fare evasion (43% without a valid ticket) we find that young individuals, males and non-European immigrants in our sample are more likely to travel without a ticket. Interestingly, traveling with other people correlates with the probability of holding a valid ticket but its effect depends on who the passenger and the others are. Finally, we find that all passengers' beliefs on fine costs, ticket inspection frequency, and percentage of passengers without a ticket are surprisingly close to actual figures. However, cheaters perceive inspections as more frequent than those traveling with a valid ticket.
Can a subtle linguistic cue that invokes the self motivate children to help? In two experiments, 3- to 6-year-old children (N = 149) were exposed to the idea of “being a helper” (noun condition) or “helping” (verb condition). Noun wording fosters the perception that a behavior reflects an identity—the kind of person one is. Both when children interacted with an adult who referenced “being a helper” or “helping” () and with a new adult (), children in the noun condition helped significantly more across four tasks than children in the verb condition or a baseline control condition. The results demonstrate that children are motivated to pursue a positive identity. Moreover, this motivation can be leveraged to encourage prosocial behavior.