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Ethical Antecedents of Cheating Intentions: Evidence of Mediation

Abstract

Although the pedagogy literature indicates significant relationships between cheating intentions and both personal and situational factors, no published research has examined the joint effect of personal moral philosophy and perceived moral intensity components on students’ cheating intentions. Hence, a structural equation model that relates magnitude of consequences, relativism, and idealism to willingness to cheat, is developed and tested. Using data from undergraduate business students, the empirical results provide insight into these relationships and evidence of mediation for magnitude of consequences on idealism and students’ cheating intentions. Implications for educators are offered.

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Fig. 1

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Appendix: Willingness to cheat scale items

Appendix: Willingness to cheat scale items

CheatWIL1

Assume it is 2 days before a 20-page paper is due in one of your friend’s courses. Your friend has yet to start it and suddenly realizes that it is worth 50% of the final course grade. (S)he has an 85% for the first half of the course and knows that receiving an ‘A’ for the final half of the course will lead to a final grade of ‘A’, which would qualify her/him for the Dean’s List for the first time. By qualifying for the Dean’s List, your friend will receive a prized fellowship for 1 year, which is given to a limited number of students. Your friend does not like the topic of the paper and believes that this is the only time in her/his college career that it will be necessary to write a paper on that topic. Your friend mentions this problem to a roommate, who after a few minutes of searching through old course files finds a completed paper on the topic, hands it to your friend, and tells him/her that two semesters ago it earned an ‘A’ for the same course assignment. Roughly 60 other students are enrolled in this course and your friend believes that the instructor will not read every paper carefully; thus, your friend believes that the instructor will not recognize this paper as the one submitted two semesters ago if a few words are changed here and there.

What is the probability that your friend will choose to plagiarize this assignment? (Please circle your answer.)

0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%.

CheatWIL2

It is the afternoon of your friend’s last final exam of his/her junior year. (S)he currently has an 87% in the course. Your friend knows that if (s)he scores 90% or above on this exam, then (s)he will receive an ‘A’ in the course and will make the Dean’s List. Making the Dean’s List gives your friend a good chance to win a scholarship for next year, since there are a limited number of scholarship winners each year. Your friend knows that (s)he could have studied more, but believes that (s)he understands the basic concepts well enough for an essay exam. Before distributing the exams, the teaching assistant explains that the professor was ill this week and asked the assistant to create a multiple-choice exam from the test bank for the textbook. Your friend knows that the student sitting next to her/him has a 4.00 average. The course syllabus states that anyone caught cheating on an exam/assignment receives an ‘F’ for that exam/ assignment; as a result of its importance to the overall course grade, your friend would receive a ‘C’ in the course if caught cheating on this exam. After distributing the exams, the teaching assistant apologizes for needing to leave the room, but promises to return soon.

What is the probability that your friend will choose to cheat on the exam? (Please circle your answer.)

0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%.

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Sierra, J.J., Hyman, M.R. Ethical Antecedents of Cheating Intentions: Evidence of Mediation. J Acad Ethics 6, 51–66 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-008-9056-x

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Keywords

  • Idealism
  • Mediation
  • Moral intensity
  • Structural equation model
  • Student cheating
  • Vignette-based research