Cheaters don’t want to ‘be a cheater’

People like to think of themselves as “basically honest,” even though they’re willing to cheat, writes Dan Willingham in An Easy Trick to Reduce Cheating.

An experimenter asked people on the Stanford campus to play a game to determine “the rate of cheating” (or “the number of cheaters”) without knowing who’s “cheating” (“a cheater”).

Subjects were asked to pick a number from 1 to 10, and then were told that if they had picked an even number they would receive $5, but if the number were odd, they would receive nothing.

When the experimenter used the word “cheater” 21% of subjects reported having picked an even number, but when “cheating” was used, 50% did. (Other research has shown that there is a strong bias to pick odd numbers in the task; that’s why the rates are so low.)

It should work with students in middle or high school, Willingham thinks.

In short, the ideal is to remind people of their best side, their good intentions, and then remind them that cheating–sorry, being a cheater–is not compatible with their image of themselves.

At the end of sophomore year in high school, my daughter told me that a classmate had stolen the Spanish teacher’s book, photocopied all the tests and returned the book.  The cheater had given copies of the tests to any student who wanted them. My daughter was in the small minority who refused to cheat. “I would have had to come up with some reason why it was OK to cheat,” she said. “And then I’d have been a cheat and a liar. Why would I do that to myself?”

Cheater’s parents sue school

Caught copying another student’s homework, a California sophomore was kicked out of honors English. His parents admit he cheated, violating the Academic Honesty Pledge he’d signed at the start of the year. But the cheater’s parents are suing, claiming the teen’s due process rights were violated, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The boy’s father, Jack Berghouse, said the punishment is too severe and could make it harder for his son to get into a top college.

The school offered to let the boy enter the International Baccalaureate program in 11th and 12th grade with others in the honors track and to keep the cheating incident off his transcript. But that wasn’t enough for the parents.

In a Mercury News poll, 84 percent of readers said cheaters shouldn’t get a second chance. Berghouse complains he’s “getting a lot of hate calls” about the lawsuit at his office.

One of my daughter’s high school classmates got away with plagiarizing homework in an honors class, but was rejected by every college that required a teacher’s recommendation letter.  He transferred to an elite college — and was expelled for cheating.