Cheaters claim they knew the answers all along

Abstract

Cheating has become commonplace in academia and beyond. Yet, almost everyone views themselves favorably, believing that they are honest, trustworthy, and of high integrity. We investigate one possible explanation for this apparent discrepancy between people’s actions and their favorable self-concepts: People who cheat on tests believe that they knew the answers all along. We found consistent correlational evidence across three studies that, for those particular cases in which participants likely cheated, they were more likely to report that they knew the answers all along. Experimentally, we then found that participants were more likely to later claim that they knew the answers all along after having the opportunity to cheat to find the correct answers – relative to exposure to the correct answers without the opportunity to cheat. These findings provide new insights into relationships between memory, metacognition, and the self-concept.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    95% CIs around beta-values offer, on our view, the best available indication of effect size for LMER models.

  2. 2.

    Based on these descriptive statistics, it is worth noting that participants in control condition almost never answered the difficult questions correctly. This accords with what we expected based on pre-testing. These descriptive statistics further suggest that participants in the control condition did not cheat by searching for the answers on the internet. We suspect this is because searching for the answers on the internet requires time and effort, and far more time and effort than just glancing at the bottom of the screen as in the cheating condition. As such, our control condition is sufficient to prevent cheating, at least in the vast majority of cases.

  3. 3.

    Note that we added this attention-check question after we pre-registered this study. This was the only deviation from the pre-registration. We came to believe this attention check would be important for ensuring that participants understood how they were supposed to make prior knowledge judgments.

  4. 4.

    Because we recruited our participants from AMT and Lucid, we believe that we can make stronger generalizations about the role of cheating in boosting the knew-it-all-along effect than we could have with convenience samples comprised of undergraduate students.

References

  1. Alicke, M. D., & Sedikides, C. (2009). Self-enhancement and self-protection: What they are and what they do. European Review of Social Psychology, 20(1), 1-48.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Aquino, K., & Reed, I. I. (2002). The self-importance of moral identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(6), 1423-1440.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Arnold, M. M., & Lindsay, D. S. (2007). “I remember/know/guess that I knew it all along!”: Subjective experience versus objective measures of the knew-it-all-along effect. Memory & Cognition, 35(8), 1854-1868.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2015). Fitting linear mixed-effect models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software, 67, 1-48.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Chance, Z., Gino, F., Norton, M. I., & Ariely, D. (2015). The slow decay and quick revival of self-deception. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1075.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. Chance, Z., Norton, M. I., Gino, F., & Ariely, D. (2011). Temporal view of the costs and benefits of self-deception. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 15655-15659.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Christensen-Szalanski, J. J., & Willham, C. F. (1991). The hindsight bias: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 48(1), 147-168.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Coppock, A., & McClellan, O. A. (2019). Validating the demographic, political, psychological, and experimental results obtained from a new source of online survey respondents. Research & Politics, 6(1), 2053168018822174.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Evans, E. D., & Craig, D. (1990). Adolescent cognitions for academic cheating as a function of grade level and achievement status. Journal of Adolescent Research, 5, 325–345.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Fischoff, B. (1975). Hindsight ≠ foresight: The effect of outcome knowledge on judgment under uncertainty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1, 288-299.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Fischoff, B. (1977). Perceived informativeness of facts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 3, 349-358.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Guilbault, R. L., Bryant, F. B., Brockway, J. H., & Posavac, E. J. (2004). A meta-analysis of research on hindsight bias. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 26(2-3), 103-117.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Hasher, L., Attig, M. S., & Alba, J. W. (1981). I knew it all along: Or, did I. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 20(1), 86-96.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Hawkins, S. A., & Hastie, R. (1990). Hindsight: Biased judgments of past events after the outcomes are known. Psychological Bulletin, 107(3), 311-327.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hölzl, E., Kirchler, E., & Rodler, C. (2002). Hindsight bias in economic expectations: I knew all along what I want to hear. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(3), 437-443.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Huang, S., Stanley, M. L., & De Brigard, F. (2020). The phenomenology of remembering our moral transgressions. Memory & Cognition.

  17. Jacoby, L. L., & Kelley, C. M. (1987). Unconscious influences of memory for a prior event. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 13(3), 314-336.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Kouchaki, M. & Gino, F. (2016). Memories of unethical actions become obfuscated over time. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113, 6166-6171.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Louie, T. A. (1999). Decision makers' hindsight bias after receiving favorable and unfavorable feedback. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(1), 29-41.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Louie, T. A., Curren, M. T., & Harich, K. R. (2000). "I knew we would win": Hindsight bias for favorable and unfavorable team decision outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(2), 264-272.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Mark, M. M., & Mellor, S. (1991). Effect of self-relevance of an event on hindsight bias: The foreseeability of a layoff. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76(4), 569-577.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Mark, M., Reiter Boburka, R., Eyssell, K., Cohen, L., & Mellor, S. (2003). " I couldn't have seen it coming": The impact of negative self-relevant outcomes on retrospections about foreseeability. Memory, 11(4-5), 443-454.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. K. (1997). Individual and contextual influences on academic dishonesty: a multicampus investigation. Research in Higher Education, 38, 379–396.

    Google Scholar 

  24. McCabe, D. L., Treviño, L. K., & Butterfield, K. D. (2001). Cheating in academic institutions: A decade of research. Ethics &Behavior, 11(3), 219-232.

    Google Scholar 

  25. McKibban, A. R. & Burdsal, C. A. (2013). Academic dishonesty: An in-depth investigation of assessing measurable constructs and a call for consistency in scholarship. Journal of Academic Ethics, 11, 185-197.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Metcalfe, J., & Finn, B. (2011). People's hypercorrection of high-confidence errors: Did they know it all along?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37(2), 437-448.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Pezzo, M. V. (2011). Hindsight bias: A primer for motivational researchers. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(9), 665-678.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Pezzo, M. V., & Pezzo, S. P. (2007). Making sense of failure: A motivated model of hindsight bias. Social Cognition, 25(1), 147-164.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Reczek, R. W., Irwin, J. R., Zane, D. M., & Ehrich, K. R. (2017). That’s not how I remember it: Willfully ignorant memory for ethical product attribute information. Journal of Consumer Research, 45(1), 185-207.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Roese, N. J., & Vohs, K. D. (2012). Hindsight bias. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(5), 411-426.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Shu, L. L., Gino, F., & Bazerman, M. H. (2011). Dishonest deed, clear conscience: When cheating leads to moral disengagement and motivated forgetting. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(3), 330-349.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Stanley, M. L., & De Brigard, F. (2019). Moral memories and the belief in the good self. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 28(4), 387-391.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Stanley, M. L., Henne, P., & De Brigard, F. (2019a). Remembering moral and immoral actions in constructing the self. Memory & Cognition, 47(3), 441-454.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Stanley, M. L., Henne, P., Iyengar, V., Sinnott-Armstrong, W., & De Brigard, F. (2017). I’m not the person I used to be: The self and autobiographical memories of immoral actions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146(6), 884-895.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Stanley, M. L., Marsh, E. J., & Kay, A. C. (2020). Structure-seeking as a psychological antecedent of beliefs about morality. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

  36. Stanley, M. L., Yang, B. W., & De Brigard, F. (2018). No evidence for unethical amnesia for imagined actions: A failed replication and extension. Memory & Cognition, 46(5), 787-795.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Stanley, M. L., Yin, S., & Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2019b). A reason-based explanation for moral dumbfounding. Judgment and Decision Making, 14(2), 120-129.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Strohminger, N., Knobe, J., & Newman, G. (2017). The true self: A psychological concept distinct from the self. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(4), 551-560.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Stuber-McEwen, D., Wiseley, P., & Hoggatt, S. (2009). Point, click, and cheat: Frequency and type of academic dishonesty in the virtual classroom. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(3).

  40. Tauber, S. K., Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Rhodes, M. G., & Sitzman, D. M. (2013). General knowledge norms: Updated and expanded from the Nelson and Narens (1980) norms. Behavior Research Methods, 45(4), 1115-1143.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Wang, W. C., Brashier, N. M., Wing, E. A., Marsh, E. J., & Cabeza, R. (2016). On known unknowns: Fluency and the neural mechanisms of illusory truth. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28(5), 739-746.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  42. Williams, S., Tanner, M., Beard, J., & Hale, G. (2012). Academic integrity on college campuses. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 8(1), 9–24.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Wojciszke, B. (2005). Morality and competence in person-and self-perception. European Review of Social Psychology, 16(1), 155-188.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Wood, G. (1978). The knew-it-all-along effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 4(2), 345-353.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matthew L. Stanley.

Ethics declarations

Declaration of competing interests

The authors declared that they have no competing interests with respect to the publication of this article.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

ESM 1

(DOCX 431 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Stanley, M.L., Stone, A.R. & Marsh, E.J. Cheaters claim they knew the answers all along. Psychon Bull Rev (2020). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-020-01812-w

Download citation

Keywords

  • Cheating
  • Moral psychology
  • Memory
  • Metacognition
  • Hindsight bias