Cheating Says A Lot about Your Personality
Cheating in high-school and college is a very common practice. But what does this say about the kids who do it?! A new study shows that those who cheat are likely to fit the profile of subclinical psychopaths. Subclinical psychopathy is a personality disorder defined by erratic lifestyle, manipulation, callousness and antisocial tendencies. What the study found was that these kids cheat because they think they are entitled to big grades and they disregard morality.
Cheating “has been facilitated by new technologies,” said Delroy Paulhus, PhD, who led the research. “At the same time, cheating may seem more apparent because we can more effectively detect it.” As it is very hard or even dangerous to try to reform a psychopathic person, Paulhus says that blocking cheating can be done by using other methods. College students who admitted they had cheated in high school or turned in plagiarized papers ranked high on the personality tests of the Dark Triad (psychopathy, Machiavellianism – that is characterized by cynicism, amorality, manipulativeness, – and narcissism – that is characterized by arrogance and self-centeredness, with a strong sense of entitlement. Out of the three, most strongly linked to cheating was psychopathy. These findings appear in the September Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.
Furthermore, the study found that students cheat for two reasons: first, they feel that they deserve big grades and second, they don’t think cheating is wrong or they simply don’t care. The study was based on 249 students who had to fill out take-home personality tests that had in mind the Dark Triad and psychology’s “Big Five” core traits of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, stability and openness. The students were also asked to answer if they had cheated on high-school tests or handed in essays copied from someone else, without giving their names, of course. The three variables of the Dark Triad were closely linked to cheating, but psychopathy got the “best score,” followed by Machiavellianism and narcissism. Students who were more agreeable were less like to cheat and those with a low conscientiousness were more likely to cheat because they were probably less prepared. “Incentives such as high grades and scholarships seem to activate dishonesty in these individuals,” the authors wrote. “The achievement goals shared by most college students trigger cheating in psychopaths alone.”
The authors said that subclinical psychopaths are not likely to develop to the extreme behavior of criminal psychopaths, but it’s highly dangerous to try to intervene with them. To see the natural cheaters, the authors said that teachers should use different forms of the same test, forbid cell phones, forbid electronics, use random seats and even make students write more about personal experiences, because that is very hard to duplicate. Plus, they should use plagiarism screening software. Moreover, teachers can expect that students who are not well prepare are more likely to cheat than others and to put a stop to cheating, the authors suggest that building-up a class where competition is not so high, could make weaker students stop cheating.11