Personality Predicts Cheating More Than Academic Struggles, Study ShowsScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2010) — Students who cheat in high school and college are highly likely to fit the profile for subclinical psychopathy — a personality disorder defined by erratic lifestyle, manipulation, callousness and antisocial tendencies. These problematic students cheat because they feel entitled and disregard morality, the study found.With new technologies cheating may seem more apparent because we can more effectively detect it.” Because it’s hard or even dangerous to try to reform a psychopathic person, he recommends blocking cheating using other means. Cheaters ranked high on personality tests of the so-called Dark Triad:
- Machiavellianism (cynicism, amorality, manipulativeness)
- Narcissism (arrogance and self-centeredness, with a strong sense of entitlement).Of the three dark personality types, psychopathy was most strongly linked to cheating. Cheaters were spurred to cheat by two motivations, the research found:
- First, they sought to get the grades to which they felt entitled; second
- They either didn’t think cheating was wrong or didn’t care.
Each of the Dark Triad variables went hand in hand with cheating at a high level of statistical significance. The more likely people were to have cheated, the higher they ranked on the psychopathy scale, followed by Machiavellianism and narcissism.People who were more conscientious and agreeable were significantly less likely to have cheated. Those low in conscientiousness were probably more likely to cheat because they were less prepared and more desperate, disagreeable students would by definition be less cooperative. However, the predictive power of those two core traits paled next to those of the Dark Triad.Again, the Dark Triad and plagiarism were closely and significantly linked, with psychopathy leading the pack. Although poor verbal skills were also tied to cheating, the association with psychopathy was tighter still. The authors concluded that personality profiling can help predict cheating.Analysis unearthed subgroups of people who felt that cheating was an appropriate strategy for reaching their ambitious goals, who were not afraid of punishment, or who were not morally inhibited. Psychopathy was significantly linked with all three motivations.“Incentives seem to activate dishonesty in these individuals. The achievement goals trigger cheating in psychopaths alone.” Making it worse, moral deterrents don’t matter to psychopaths, who scoff at social norms.
The authors caution that subclinical psychopaths are unlikely to exhibit the extreme behaviors of criminal psychopaths. Even with subclinical levels, however, it’s nearly impossible and potentially dangerous to intervene with psychopaths.