Monday, February 4, 2008

Calvinists more likely to Cheat

No, not really.

However, a recent study examined the connections between a person's fatalism and their likeliness to cheat. The results were pretty striking:
"those with weaker convictions about their power to control their own destiny were more apt to cheat when given the opportunity as compared to those whose beliefs about controlling their own lives were left untouched."

Read the article if you're curious about the methodology of the study. I don't know enough to really evaluate them for myself, but the findings match with my observations as a teacher. The students who cheat tend to be those who look at grades and test results as something I do to them, or something they just get, no matter what effort they might or might not put into it. The students who actually see their grades as something they earn are less likely to cheat. (There is an exception to that rule: students who are pressured into achieving good grades to the point that they feel they have no choice.)


Ben Wildeboer said...

Hmmm...I went to Calvin College; I'm not sure about the title to this post. :-)

I do agree with your posting though. Students who see school as something to survive will do whatever it takes to survive, including cheat. That's a big reason why I strive (somewhat successfully) to have an engaging curriculum with more authentic assessments. Though it's harder to cheat on authentic assessments, I still find more instances of plagiarism from the group of students "surviving" school than the others.

Interesting post with an interesting title.

Mike Parent said...

Interesting finding. This makes me think back to the chapter in FREAKONOMICS; What do Sumo Wrestlers and Teachers Have in Common? [answer: they both cheat]

Apparently as this study presumes, inner city teachers who cheated with (or for) their students on high stakes tests might have done so partly because of the feeling that they do not control their own desitinies.

Good post. I just fond you and I will add you to my feed reader.

Penelope said...

Ben - The title was one of those things that probably seemed more clever to me at the time of posting than it actually is. I hope most people got the Calvinism -> predestination -> study results show lack of belief in free will = cheating connection.

Mike - That connection also makes a lot of sense. In a way, you can see it as the idea that once you strip away all other ethics, we base our actions on a desire for survival. Since we're complicated creatures, things like getting through high school (as Ben said) and getting good enough test scores not to get fired/suffer whatever other consequences can be seen as "necessary to survival".

The other thing that I see in it is the fact that even when we know we don't control something we attempt to take control. Think about all the people who have to wear a lucky piece of clothes for the big sports game, or keep an umbrella in their car to prevent rain (guilty!)... We're perfectly rationally aware that the weather doesn't actually care whether or not we brought an umbrella that day, but this isn't about reason, is it?