Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Friday, August 26, 2016

Would You Cheat? Cheating Behavior, Human Nature, and Decision-Making

Piotr M. Patrzyk
Published in Student Pulse


Cheating is a pervasive behavior among humans. Due to its unethicality, it has captured an attention of many scholars in a wide range of disciplines. Numerous theories have been put forward in order to explain this behavior. In this article I review some of the experimental findings concerning cheating and propose an explanation of how people make decisions about engagement or refraining from it. Underlying mechanisms, as well as their origin are discussed.

Questions concerning human nature provoke controversy across disciplines,  particularly when it comes to explaining evil or immoral behaviors. Endeavors to explain actions that are considered immoral strike at a fundamental philosophical issue: whether  people are innately good and it is the world that corrupts them; or whether people are innately evil and their tainted proclivities are more or less inevitable.

Here is part of the conclusion:

Moral hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind because it is the best strategy for reproduction. People develop norms in order to compel others to do what they want, but do not follow them themselves because it would be too costly. Maintaining a good reputation is the essential goal of an individual living in a society based on indirect reciprocity (Alexander, 1987) so decisions concerning ethical issues are sensitive to these considerations. As Akerlof, frequently cited in economical literature on cheating, points out:  "[t]here is a return to appearing honest, but not to being honest” (1983, p. 57). It would make no sense if individuals made decisions based on what is objectively moral or immoral. Moral reputation pays, and as such individuals make decisions to maximize their perceived moral reputation,  both internally and externally.

The paper is here.