Students and experts debate if there is a thrill to cheating in academia
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 22:10
Sophomore Kelsy Frank says “Of course” she’s cheated. She recalls having helped another student out on an exam and getting caught by the teacher. Although her classmate could “play it off,” Frank says she confessed.
“I immediately regretted it,” Frank says. “I cried. That was the only time I ever cheated.”
Sophomore Laura Marcello says she was once caught looking at a person’s quiz next to her.
“The feeling afterward was so intense,” Marcello says. “I felt so terrible, like I had compromised a part of myself.”
According to an article in The New York Times published on Oct. 7 called “Cheating’s Surprising Thrill,” new research shows as long as an individual doesn’t believe his or her act of cheating is hurt anyone, it’s possible he or she felt great after doing it.
Researchers at University of Washington, London Business School, Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania’s behavioral ethics conducted various tests on individuals that gave participants more money and correct answers if they cheated. One study found 41 percent of participants in an experiment that gave them one dollar for every correct answer had cheated. Afterward, the participants who cheated felt an “emotional burst” that the other, honest 59 percent reportedly did not.
This emotional burst, or “Cheater’s High,” occurs when those who cheated experience thrill, self-satisfaction and a sense of superiority afterward, according to the article. The traditional reaction of feeling guilty was absent, the article says.
Frank says she believes the “Cheater’s High” is experienced out of adrenaline and doing something you know there are consequences for if you are caught.
Marcello says cheating is the “fight” part of the “fight-or-flight response.” Cheating is done “in the moment” as a response to the troublesome and stressful situation you are in, she says.
The exhilaration of cheating may come from people congratulating themselves on their cleverness, according to the article.
Marcello says students praise themselves on their ability to cheat.
“If you can cheat and not get caught, it’s like, ‘I get the grade and approval, and no one can judge me because they don’t know I cheated,’” Marcello says.
Frank says students cheat and deviate from their core values and morals because sometimes cheating is easier than actually sitting down and studying.
“They don’t want to do the actual work to learn the material,” she says. “They’re down to the wire and have no other choice and tell themselves, ‘I am going to do this because I need to pass this class.’”
Marcello says because we live in such a competitive world, sometimes we feel as though we can’t keep up with or surpass our peers unless we cheat.
Sociology and criminal justice professor Victor Perez says our culture is embedded in the idea of getting ahead and always striving for more. He quoted the phrase “the ends justify the means” to justify our mindset.
Perez says students might feel a good grade in a particular class is essential, and the only way to achieve it is by cheating. He says to them, this is a justification for what they have done.
“It might not give them a thrill,” Perez says, “but they won’t feel remorse for it.”
The article mentions another study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, the London Business School, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania titled “The Cheater’s High: The Unexpected Affective Benefits of Unethical Behavior.”
The study found that out of 77 individuals who were told to ignore a pop-up message allowing them to cheat on a test to measure their intelligence, 68 percent cheated at least once. Afterward, these individuals were “upbeat.”
Frank says the definition of cheating becomes convoluted in real-life situations, and it’s a “normal part of society.” She says there are loopholes which make cheating by lawyers and politicians just another part of the job.
Frank and Marcello say cheaters receive the appropriate consequences when they cheat, although at times these consequences are too harsh. Frank says being kicked out of school could be a result of cheating only one time, and that’s a big reason why she does not do it.
Perez says he gives students two options if he catches them plagiarizing papers or having “wandering eyes” during exams.
“Take a zero and now have to work harder to get a decent grade in this class, or let’s head to the Office of Student Conduct, and let them sort it out,” Perez says.
He says academic and university standards toward cheating and the resulting consequences are necessary and acceptable in enforcing the mindset in students not to cheat.
Perez says while cheating may be a “sneaky thrill” for some, he doesn’t believe it represents “the norm” for those who cheat. He says it may even require more effort than just doing the task by conventional means.
In order to stop cheating, the article says companies and businesses should encourage integrity and honesty. By encouraging these practices, the cheater stops cheating and their self-satisfaction is cut, which Marcello says she agrees with.
“It’s important to encourage integrity, yet at the same time, it’s hard,” she says. “Everything is almost entirely judged on the product produced, not the integrity in producing it.”