JUN 02, 2017 6:35 AM PDT

So you say you don't cheat


Have you ever cheated on a test? There was a particularly poignant spelling test in the first grade when I sneaked a look a another student's test, and I still remember to this day how guilty I felt after. (I ended up telling my mom and she made me apologize to my teacher and the other student.) It's that developing moral compass that researchers think is why kids cheat sometimes; they're still learning what's right and wrong and the social and moral consequences for acting "poorly". As we grow up, the thought is that we become less self-centered and more moral, which prohibits us mentally from committing a looked-down upon action.

Cost-benefit analysis is another aspect of cheating. If the reward for cheating appears to be greater than the risk of getting caught, people are more likely to cheat. This sub-conscious decision is of course very subjective to the person and the situation. Cheating on the SATs, for example, might seem to have a bigger benefit (getting into a good college) for some, while it might have a bigger cost (getting caught and facing the consequences) for others.

However, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology says that we might cheat on a unconscious level, and it could be due to our hormones. Researchers distributed a math test to a group of people, instructing them to grade the test themselves. The people in the group knew that the more questions they got correct, the more money they would receive. The subjects also swabbed their cheek saliva before and after the test and it was found that people with higher testosterone and cortisone levels were more likely to cheat. Extra testosterone gives us the courage to cheat while cortisone gives us the motivation, explains the study. To find out why that is, watch the video!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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