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Children who cheat in school are more likely to do the same in their professional lives

A tendency to cheat can lead to a slippery slope when kids get older

Photo (c) AntonioGuillem - Getty Images
Experts have previously provided theories when it comes to kids cheating in school, but a new study conducted by researchers from San Francisco State University found that attitudes about cheating tend not to change much outside of the classroom. 

The study revealed that those who are more accepting of cheating when they’re in school are also more likely to hold onto those beliefs in their workplace as adults. 

“If [students] have this attitude while they’re in school -- that it’s OK to cheat in school -- that attitude unfortunately will carry over to the corporate boardroom,” said researcher Foo Nin Ho. 

Understanding attitudes about cheating

The researchers surveyed graduate students to determine their beliefs about cheating in the classroom versus cheating in the workplace in an effort to understand if a relationship existed between the two. 

Participants read statements regarding cheating in either scenario and then marked how acceptable or unacceptable they deemed the behavior. The biggest takeaway from the study was that students who had more lenient attitudes about cheating in the classroom were consistent in these beliefs as they progressed into adulthood. 

However, the researchers took this study a step further to look at why this was the case. They determined that students who have a more collective mindsight are more willing to accept cheating, as they prefer having everyone succeed. Those who are more self-focused were more likely to have stricter views about cheating -- in the classroom and otherwise. 

Though this was an interesting trend that emerged among the students involved in the study, the researchers do warn that this isn’t the sole explanation for why some students are okay with cheating while others aren’t. 

The researchers hope that teachers can use these findings as a learning tool to help change students’ attitudes in the classroom. Based on another recent study, bosses who are seen by their employees as displaying ethical leadership were found to create a more positive work environment and more satisfied employees.

“As professors, we need to set the tone and say, ‘This is what’s not rewarded in the classroom’ and train students that following ethical behavior leads to better outcomes,” said researcher Glen Brodowsky. “So when they graduate and work for companies they will [be] better equipped to evaluate that situation.”

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