"Harmless" cheating in lab linked to misbehavior in real life: study

2018-05-17 00:40:08 GMT2018-05-17 08:40:08(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

CHICAGO, May 16 (Xinhua) -- A study of the University of Michigan (UM) and the University of Zurich has connected cheating for financial gain in the lab with misbehavior in school.

The researchers asked 162 middle and high school students from eight classes in two Swiss schools to record results from flipping a coin in a private setting with no observers present. Each time the coin came up as heads, the students got to keep the money.

The researchers then asked teachers to report student behavior in class on three measures: disruptiveness, non-completion of homework and absenteeism.

The result is a great number of students took more coins than statistics suggest should have been possible, and they often were students that misbehaved at school.

Students took nearly 63 percent of the coins in the envelopes, which researchers estimate means that nearly 26 percent were misreported. Female students were more honest than males, and middle school students were more likely than those in high school to cheat.

"A person who claims to have won on every single coin flip has likely cheated as the chance to win 10 coin flips in a row is less than 0.1 percent," said Michel Marechal, an associate professor of economics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. "The most likely outcome of an honest person is to win every other coin flip, that is, five out of 10."

The researchers found that the level of cheating was positively associated with the three school behaviors. Students who took more than five coins scored 72 percent higher on disruptiveness in class, 69 percent higher on non-completion of homework and 61 percent higher on absenteeism relative as compared to the other students.

The study is scheduled to be published soon in the Economic Journal, said a report from the UM website Wednesday.