Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 94, Issue 3, pp 441-453

First online:

Why Do College Students Cheat?

  • Mark G. SimkinAffiliated withCollege of Business Administration, University of Nevada Email author 
  • , Alexander McLeodAffiliated withCollege of Business Administration, University of Nevada

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More is known about the pervasiveness of college cheating than reasons why students cheat. This article reports the results of a study that applied the theory of reasoned action and partial least squares methodology to analyze the responses of 144 students to a survey on cheating behavior. Approximately 60% of the business students and 64% of the non-business students admitted to such behavior. Among cheaters, a “desire to get ahead” was the most important motivating factor – a surprising result given the comprehensive set of factors tested in the study. Among non-cheaters, the presence of a “moral anchor” such as an ethical professor was most important. The article also includes a set of important caveats that might limit this study and suggests some avenues for further study.


cheating ethical behavior student dishonesty student misconduct theory of reasoned action