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Why do students cheat on tests when it will effect them later on in their lives?So first of all, I think that students for sure, but most people in general, don't think much about what will happen later in lives, we have this general problem of thinking about short-term and not thinking about long-term and this is everywhere, right, it's about why we over-eat and under-exercise, and under-save and text and drive, don't take our medication on time and have unprotected sex, all of those behaviors are due to the fact that we don't think about long-term.
Then come back and tell us how many questions you solved correctly and we'll pay you accordingly, a dollar per question.” Now, what people don't know is that we played with the shredder, the shredder only shreds the side of the page, but not the full page and we can jump in and find how many questions people really solved correctly. We find that on average people solved around four problems and report to be solving six.
Okay, that's a general finding, and we find that the six is not comprised of a few people who cheat a lot, instead it's comprised of many people who cheat a little bit.
So, there's lots of examples like this when individuals are misbehaving dishonestly in the short-term and not thinking about the long-term and companies are not sufficiently successful in regulating this behavior.
In terms of being honest and it backfiring, it depends on what you mean by “backfiring”.
In the rational framework of course people always think about the long-term and in the rational framework of cheating people think in the long-term, but in reality we find that people don't think so much about the long-term.
And this means, by the way, that the rules and regulations and laws that rely on the long-term, that rely on prison sentences, and probability that someday somebody might catch you are much less effective then we think because when we are creating the rules and regulations we have in mind a rational agent who thinks in the long-term and human beings are not like that and college students are of course the same.Based on your research, what motivates people to behave dishonestly?What we basically find is that people are a nice combination of economic incentives and psychological incentives.Our economic side of us wants to benefit from cheating, because cheating benefits us in the short-term.Now, it might not work for us in the long-term, but because we don't think about the long-term, we focus on the short-term.As we try and resist temptation more and more and more our ability to resist temptation diminishes until eventually we kind of collapse and give in. As we get tired by resisting temptation in all kinds of aspects of our lives we end up falling to temptation to a higher degree and cheat and lie to a higher degree.So, going back to the question about why people lie sometimes and not other times, there are clearly changes that happen within a person over time, but what we find is that an even bigger effect has to do with the environmental circumstances that are around us.What that means is that when we have an environment in which people can distance themselves from the act of cheating, they're not cheating for money, they're cheating for a piece of plastic, all of a sudden this environment can facilitate to a much higher degree.There are many other influences like this and what this means is that we need to think about the environment, we need to think about regulation, we need to think about rules, we need to think about professional cause of ethics because those things eventually have much more to do with how people behave than individual personality.So, of course, if you work in a bank and your bank people are perfectly honest, and then you have other banks where people try all the funny procedures and they don't have Chinese walls and they sell stocks that are not good to their clients to take them off of their hands and so on.All of a sudden if you're honest, you would do well by your clients, but you would be less wealthy.