A new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (abstract; PDF) explores “the cheater’s high.” The authors are Nicole Ruedy, Celia Moore, Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer. Here’s the abstract:
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Many theories of moral behavior assume that unethical behavior triggers negative affect. In this article, we challenge this assumption and demonstrate that unethical behavior can trigger positive affect, which we term a “cheater’s high.” Across 6 studies, we find that even though individuals predict they will feel guilty and have increased levels of negative affect after engaging in unethical behavior (Studies 1a and 1b), individuals who cheat on different problem-solving tasks consistently experience more positive affect than those who do not (Studies 2-5). We find that this heightened positive affect does not depend on self-selection (Studies 3 and 4), and it is not due to the accrual of undeserved financial rewards (Study 4). Cheating is associated with feelings of self-satisfaction, and the boost in positive affect from cheating persists even when prospects for self-deception about unethical behavior are reduced (Study 5). Our results have important implications for models of ethical decision making, moral behavior, and self-regulatory theory.
A Freakonomics Radio listener named Sandra Elsen writes:
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Today, I went to my son’s kindergarten. He attends the local International School (what the Realtor described as the “Hippy-Dippy” school, lol), in a semi-rural area, just outside of the city in a middle-class town.
There, I was asked to help them learn a new game. The concept was simple: a six-sided block had three 1′s and three 2′s marked on each side. They had to trace the number that was rolled on their worksheet. Roll, trace. Once five of one number was achieved, either the firetruck or the firefighter (pictured at the bottom of the sheet) “won.” The teacher indicated it was a “race” to see which picture would win.
The Week (and, earlier, the N.Y. Post) reports a new way for high-wage people to economize on time: when visiting Disney World, hire a “tour concierge” — a disabled person who uses his/her disability privileges to ignore waiting lines (and take the high-wage person and family with him/her ahead of the crowd). At $130 per hour, the time saving is easily justified economically (just think of the lines at Space Mountain, or at my personal favorite, Small World). It would be nice too if people would rent me their toddlers to board Southwest Airlines flights ahead of the mob. Clearly, there is room for beneficial exchange like this in many areas.
These are not, however, Pareto improvements: while the “concierge” and his/her customers gain, everybody else in line loses. It doesn’t seem fair to me, and perhaps not efficient, since the externalities of extra waiting time for the whole line can be substantial.
For years, we’ve been giving away free autographed bookplates that readers can stick in their copies of our books. (We’ve taken a break from this practice recently but will resume when we publish our next book.) I would estimate that we’ve mailed out between 20,000 and 30,000 bookplates — all of them really signed by the two of us and all absolutely free, including postage. Why did we do this? It just seemed like a good idea, and a nice way to thank people for reading.
But what suckers we are! As a reader named TL recently let us know, there’s good money to be made on eBay selling signed Freakonomics bookplates.
A reader named Ari writes from Israel:
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Recently the Israel Government voted to change the minimum age for getting a driver’s license. Here is a snippet from an article in Ha’aretz (headlined “Israel to Lower Driving Age, but Tack on Period of Mandatory Supervision”):
The earliest age to start driving lessons will remain 16 and a half. The period of driving accompanied by an adult will have to cover at least 50 hours, 20 of them on urban streets, 15 hours on inter-urban roads and 15 hours of driving at night. The novice driver will have to have an adult chaperone at all hours of the day during the first three months but only at night during the second three months. After the novice driver and the accompanying person sign a declaration that the accompanied driving requirement has been fulfilled properly, the new driver will be given a young driver’s license.
I’m curious as to how the honor system is going to work here. If my child’s license were to depend on my declaration, what are the chances that I would fudge? How would the governing agency know? It seems to be unverifiable. I assume that there will be some internet-based form with a checkbox and maybe some number to fill in (number of hours driven night / day / rain / …) I believe that forcing a person to write his own declaration would make it more difficult for him to lie.
This blog has clever readers. One of them, Corey Forbes, writes in to say:
We know that point shaving, game throwing, match fixing and referee scandals have existed in professional and college sports since as long ago as the 1919 Chicago White Sox. Knowing this, why doesn’t the U.S. Government just fix a sporting event(s) to pay off its debts … or are they doing this already?
I love the “or are they doing this already?”
Anyway: why not indeed (other than the potential p.r. and financial disasters)?
A new survey of 500 financial service professionals in the U.S. and the U.K. finds that 26 percent of survey respondents “had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace” and almost 25 percent “believed that financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct in order to be successful.”
Depending on your worldview, you may read that previous paragraph and think, Oh my goodness, that’s outrageous! Or, conversely, you might think Only 26 percent?! Read More »
An article in Chronicle of Higher Education explains how the increase in online courses has made cheating a lot easier. For example, Bob Smith (not his real name) successfully arranged a test-cheating scheme with several friends. The tests “pulled questions at random from a bank of possibilities” and could be taken anywhere, but had to be taken within a short window of time each week:
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Mr. Smith figured out that the actual number of possible questions in the test bank was pretty small. If he and his friends got together to take the test jointly, they could paste the questions they saw into the shared Google Doc, along with the right or wrong answers. The schemers would go through the test quickly, one at a time, logging their work as they went. The first student often did poorly, since he had never seen the material before, though he would search an online version of the textbook on Google Books for relevant keywords to make informed guesses. The next student did significantly better, thanks to the cheat sheet, and subsequent test-takers upped their scores even further. They took turns going first. Students in the course were allowed to take each test twice, with the two results averaged into a final score.
“So the grades are bouncing back and forth, but we’re all guaranteed an A in the end,” Mr. Smith told me. “We’re playing the system, and we’re playing the system pretty well.”