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Academic Cheating Among Social Science and Engineering Undergraduates

  • Author(s): Waltzer, Talia
  • Advisor(s): Dahl, Audun
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license
Abstract

Academic cheating—a common and consequential form of dishonesty—has puzzled moral psychologists and educators for decades. The present research examined a new theoretical approach to the perceptions, evaluations, and motivations that shape students’ decisions to cheat. I tested key predictions of this approach by systematically examining students’ accounts of their own cheating. In two studies, I interviewed undergraduate students in psychology (n = 68) and engineering (n = 123) classes about their past experiences with plagiarism or other forms of cheating. Interviews assessed students’ perceptions of whether they were cheating, their evaluations of whether their actions were okay, and their motivations for doing what they did. Most students did not initially recognize their acts as cheating. While students generally thought cheating was wrong, they often judged the exceptional cases in which they cheated to be acceptable, citing concerns such as assignment goals and task feasibility. The findings suggest that perceptions, evaluations, and competing motivations play a key role in students’ decisions to cheat.

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