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A new NBER Paper finds:

In this paper, we demonstrate that university students who cheat on a simple task in a laboratory setting are more likely to state a preference for entering public service.  Importantly, we also show that cheating on this task is predictive of corrupt behavior by real government workers, implying that this measure captures a meaningful propensity towards corruption.  Students who demonstrate lower levels of prosocial preferences in the laboratory games are also more likely to prefer to enter the government, while outcomes on explicit, two-player games to measure cheating and attitudinal measures of corruption do not systematically predict job preferences.  We find
that a screening process that chooses the highest ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption among the applicant pool.  Our findings imply that differential selection into government may contribute, in part, to corruption.  They also emphasize that screening characteristics other than ability may be useful in reducing corruption, but caution that more explicit measures may offer little predictive power.

While I’ve seen my share of cheating here, I’m not really sure how rampant it is. Indeed, from an outside perspective, given how easy it is to cheat, I’d be more surprised at how little it happens. Why we see so little is worthy of another post.

3 Responses to “College Cheating and Public Service”

  1. Harry says:

    Yeah, WC. How does one cheat in the lab, unless you bribe or blackmail your professor? The results are yours, and if it is finding an unknown, the answer is either right or wrong, and it is an open-book test.

    There are appeals, as in my dog fouled my test tubes. Charitable chemistry professors, who do not exist, will give you a second chance, if you do not tell his wife whom you saw him with in the stacks of the Chemistry Library.

    Perhaps this chases away Wintercow’s learned colleagues from hazarding a logical sentence, or inviting him to dinner or a global warming party?

    • RIT_Rich says:

      Lab setting here doesn’t mean “lab” in the physical science sense. It simply means in a controlled experiment. I didn’t read the paper so I’m not sure what sort of experiment they are running, but I’m guessing it is one designed to measure psychological traits, rather than an experiment with test tubes and chemistry :)

      PS: You can cheat on chemistry experiments quite easily too.

      • Harry says:

        Yes, Rich, I ran off the topic WC was pursuing. I was just saying that when you are given the task of identifying an unknown using 1960’s technology (no mass spectrometers available) it is very hard to fake the answer.

        Not having read the whole paper either, and recognizing the limitations of the abstract WC posted, I too do not understand fully the author’s reasoning.

        But it is easy to see the dramatic irony when he says cheaters gravitate toward jobs which give power to people who can disregard sound reasoning when it is inconvenient to them. Those are not the same people we saw in the chem lab on a Saturday night as we were walking to the party at the Delta House.

        This is not to impugn the moral integrity of the Animal House brothers, who adhere to higher standards.

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