The Situationist

Archive for June, 2013

The Situation Cheating Students

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 29, 2013

honor or cheating

From American Psychological Association (excerpts from an article by Ann Novotney):

More than half of teenagers say they have cheated on a test during the last year — and 34 percent have done it more than twice — according to a survey of 40,000 U.S. high school students released in February by the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics. The survey also found that one in three students admitted they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.

The statistics don’t get any better once students reach college. In surveys of 14,000 undergraduates conducted over the past four years by Donald McCabe, PhD, a business professor at Rutgers University and co-founder of Clemson University’s International Center for Academic Integrity, about two-thirds of students admit to cheating on tests, homework and assignments. And in a 2009 study in Ethics & Behavior (Vol. 19, No. 1), researchers found that nearly 82 percent of a sample of college alumni admitted to engaging in some form of cheating as undergraduates.

Some research even suggests that academic cheating may be associated with dishonesty later in life. In a 2007 survey of 154 college students, Southern Illinois University researchers found that students who plagiarized in college reported that they viewed themselves as more likely to break rules in the workplace, cheat on spouses and engage in illegal activities (Ethics & Behavior, Vol. 17, No. 3). A 2009 survey, also by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, reports a further correlation: People who cheat on exams in high school are three times more likely to lie to a customer or inflate an insurance claim compared with those who never cheated. High school cheaters are also twice as likely to lie to or deceive their boss and one-and-a-half times more likely to lie to a significant other or cheat on their taxes.

Academic cheating, therefore, is not just an academic problem, and curbing this behavior is something that academic institutions are beginning to tackle head-on, says Stephen F. Davis, PhD, emeritus professor of psychology at Emporia State University and co-author of “Cheating in School: What We Know and What We Can Do” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). New research by psychologists seems to suggest that the best way to prevent cheating is to create a campus-wide culture of academic integrity.

“Everyone at the institution — from the president of the university and the board of directors right on down to every janitor and cafeteria worker — has to buy into the fact that the school is an academically honest institution and that cheating is a reprehensible behavior,” Davis says.

Why students cheat

The increasing amount of pressure on students to succeed academically — in efforts to get into good colleges, graduate schools and eventually to land good jobs — tends to be one of the biggest drivers of cheating’s proliferation. Several studies show that students who are more motivated than their peers by performance are more likely to cheat.

“What we show is that as intrinsic motivation for a course drops, and/or as extrinsic motivation rises, cheating goes up,” says Middlebury College psychology professor Augustus Jordan, PhD, who led a 2005 study on motivation to cheat (Ethics and Behavior, Vol. 15, No. 2). “The less a topic matters to a person, or the more they are participating in it for instrumental reasons, the higher the risk for cheating.”

Psychological research has also shown that dishonest behaviors such as cheating actually alter a person’s sense of right and wrong, so after cheating once, some students stop viewing the behavior as immoral. In a study published in March in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Vol. 37, No. 3), for example, Harvard University psychology and organizational behavior graduate student Lisa Shu and colleagues conducted a series of experiments, one of which involved having undergraduates read an honor code reminding them that cheating is wrong and then providing them with a series of math problems and an envelope of cash. The more math problems they were able to answer correctly, the more cash they were allowed to take. In one condition, participants reported their own scores, which gave them an opportunity to cheat by misreporting. In the other condition, participants’ scores were tallied by a proctor in the room. As might be expected, several students in the first condition inflated their scores to receive more money. These students also reported a greater degree of cheating acceptance after participating in the study than they had prior to the experiment. They also found that, while those who read the honor code were less likely to cheat, the honor code did not eliminate all of the cheating,

“Our findings confirm that the situation can, in fact, impact behavior and that people’s beliefs flex to align with their behavior,” Shu says.

Another important finding is that while many students understand that cheating is against the rules, most still look to their peers for cues as to what behaviors and attitudes are acceptable, says cognitive psychologist David Rettinger, PhD, of the University of Mary Washington. Perhaps not surprisingly, he says, several studies suggest that seeing others cheat increases one’s tendency to cheat.

“Cheating is contagious,” says Rettinger. In his 2009 study with 158 undergraduates, published in Research in Higher Education (Vol. 50, No. 3), he found that direct knowledge of others’ cheating was the biggest predictor of cheating.

Even students at several U.S. military academies — where student honor codes are widely publicized and strictly enforced — aren’t immune from cheating’s contagion. A longitudinal study led by University of California, Davis, economist Scott Carrell, PhD, examined survey data gathered from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy from 1959 through 2002. Carrell found that, thanks to peer effects, one new college cheater is “created” through social contagion for every two to three additional high school cheaters admitted to a service academy.

“This behavior is most likely transmitted through the knowledge that other students are cheating,” says Carrell, who conducted the study with James West, PhD, and Frederick Malmstrom, PhD, both of the Air Force Academy. “This knowledge causes students — particularly those who would not have otherwise — to cheat because they feel like they need to stay competitive and because it creates a social norm of cheating.”

Dishonesty prevention

Peer effects, however, cut both ways, and getting students involved in creating a culture of academic honesty can be a great way to curb cheating.

“The key is to create this community feeling of disgust at the cheating behavior,” says Rettinger. “And the best way to do that is at the student level.”

* * *

Teachers can also help diminish students’ impulse to cheat by explaining the purpose and relevance of every academic lesson and course assignment, says University of Connecticut educational psychologist Jason Stephens, PhD. According to research presented in 2003 by Stephens and later published in the “The Psychology of Academic Cheating” (Elsevier, 2006), high school students cheat more when they see the teacher as less fair and caring and when their motivation in the course is more focused on grades and less on learning and understanding. In addition, in a 1998 study of cheating with 285 middle school students, Ohio State University educational psychologist Eric Anderman, PhD, co-editor with Tamara Murdock, PhD, of “The Psychology of Academic Cheating,” found that how teachers present the goals of learning in class is key to reducing cheating. Anderman showed that students who reported the most cheating perceive their classrooms as being more focused on extrinsic goals, such as getting good grades, than on mastery goals associated with learning for its own sake and continuing improvement (Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 90, No. 1).

“When students feel like assignments are arbitrary, it’s really easy for them to talk themselves into not doing it by cheating,” Rettinger says. “You want to make it hard for them to neutralize by saying, ‘This is what you’ll learn and how it’s useful to you.’”

At the college level in particular, it’s also important for institutional leaders to make fairness a priority by having an office of academic integrity to communicate to students and faculty that the university takes the issue of academic dishonesty seriously, says Tricia Bertram Gallant, PhD, academic integrity coordinator at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author with Davis of “Cheating in School.” . . .

* * *

There’s also evidence that focusing on honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility and promoting practices such as effective honor codes can make a significant difference in student behaviors, attitudes and beliefs, according to a 1999 study by the Center for Academic Integrity. Honor codes seem to be particularly salient when they engage students, however. In Shu’s study on the morality of cheating, for example, she found that participants who passively read a generic honor code before taking a test were less likely to cheat on the math problems, though this step did not completely curb cheating. Among those who signed their names attesting that they’d read and understood the honor code, however, no cheating occurred.

“It was impressive to us how exposing participants to an honor code and really making morality salient in that situation basically eliminated cheating altogether,” she says.

Read entire article here.

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Posted in Education, Morality, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Seeing Violence; Doing Violence

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 26, 2013

domestic violence

From Case Western Reserve University on Newswise:

Aggression in school-age children may have its origins in children 3 years old and younger who witnessed violence between their mothers and partners, according to a new Case Western Reserve University study.

“People may think children that young are passive and unaware, but they pay attention to what’s happening around them,” said Megan Holmes, assistant professor of social work at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.

Between three and 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence each year, according the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence.

Holmes said researchers know the impact of recent exposure to violence, but little information has been available about the long-term effect from the early years of life. To her knowledge, she said her study is the first to look at the effect of early exposure to domestic violence and its impact on the development of social behavior.

In the study, “The sleeper effect of intimate partner violence (IPV) exposure: long-term consequences on young children’s aggressive behavior,” Holmes analyzed the behavior of 107 children exposed to IPV in their first three years but never again after age 3. The outcomes of those children were compared to 339 children who were never exposed.

Those studied were from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), which included children reported to Child Protective Services for abuse or neglect. The children’s behavior was followed four times over the course of 5 years.

Holmes’s research examined the timing, duration and nature of their exposure to violence and how it affected aggressive behavior.

Analyzing aggressive behaviors, Holmes saw no behavioral differences between those who did or did not witness violence between the ages of 3 and 5, but children exposed to violence increased their aggression when they reached school age. And the more frequently IPV was witnessed, the more aggressive the behaviors became.

Meanwhile, children never exposed to IPV gradually decreased in aggression.

Knowing about the delayed effect on children is important for social workers assessing the impact on children in homes with domestic violence, Holmes said.

“The delay also gives social workers a window of opportunity between ages 3 and 5 to help the children socialize and learn what is appropriate behavior,” said Holmes, who has worked with mothers and children in domestic violence shelters.

Interventions can include play and art therapies to help children work through the violence they were exposed to.

Holmes reported her findings in the spring issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Related Situationist posts:

One series of posts was devoted to the situational sources of war.

To review a larger sample of posts on the causes and consequences of human conflict, click here.

Posted in Life | Leave a Comment »

Corporate Aid to Governmental Authority – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 23, 2013

Corporate America

Situationist Contributor David Yosifon recently posted another thoughtful and provocative article on corporate law.  The article, titled “Corporate Aid to Governmental Authority: History and Analysis of an Obscure Power in Delaware Corporate Law” (forthcoming in University of St. Thomas Law Journal) can be downloaded for free on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

The Delaware General Corporation Law contains an obscure provision stating that all corporations have the power to “[t]ransact any lawful business which the corporation’s board of directors shall find to be in aid of governmental authority.” 8 DGCL §122(12). This oddly worded provision has never been applied, analyzed, or interpreted by any court. It has received almost no treatment by corporate law scholars. This lack of attention is surprising, given that by its own terms the provision seems to bear on fundamental corporate law themes, such as the purpose of corporations, the scope of directors’ fiduciary obligations and discretion, and the relationship between corporate law and corporate social responsibility. In this Article, I examine the history behind this strange provision and analyze its applicability to pressing social policy questions surrounding corporate law.

My analysis leads both to narrow and broad policy conclusions. The narrow conclusion is that §122 of the Delaware corporate code is a textual mess that should be amended at least for coherence and clarity. The broad conclusion is that the analysis herein contributes to the case for reforming corporate governance law to require directors to actively attend to the interests of multiple stakeholders, not just shareholders.

Download the article for free here.  See Yosifon’s SSRN page here.

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The Surprisingly Dangerous Situation of Hands Free Devices while Driving

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 20, 2013

Many drivers use hands-free devices in their cars believing that it is a safer way of texting and emailing than to do so by typing.  A new study by the University of Utah and AAA suggests hands-free devices pose more danger than other distractions in cars.  Here is an excerpt from a story on the University of Utah’s website:

* * *

“Our research shows that hands-free is not risk-free,” says University of Utah psychology Professor David Strayer, lead author of the study, which he conducted for the foundation arm of the nonprofit AAA, formerly known as the American Automobile Association.

“These new, speech-based technologies in the car can overload the driver’s attention and impair their ability to drive safely,” says Strayer. “An unintended consequence of trying to make driving safer – by moving to speech-to-text, in-vehicle systems – may actually overload the driver and make them less safe.”

* * *

To read the rest, click here.  For a related Situationist post, see The Situation of Driving While Texting.

Posted in Law, Life | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Questions about NFL Players’ Sexual Orientation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 17, 2013

SI Loaded Question 3Last week the National Football League Players’ Association announced it would sell t-shirts with a gay pride theme.  A number of players have agreed to have their names on the t-shirts.  This is a positive step for the NFL, which as Situationist contributor Michael McCann wrote about earlier this year for Sports Illustrated, has seen fallout from its teams asking prospective players about their sexual orientation.  Here is an excerpt of McCann’s article “Loaded Question“, which appeared on page 16 in the March 25, 2013 issue of SI.

* * *

In a March 14 letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman inquired why, during last month’s scouting combine, several college players were allegedly asked about their sexual orientation. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o denied reports that he had faced such queries, but Colorado tight end Nick Kasa said a team wanted to know if he “likes girls.” Kasa’s isn’t the first case of offensive predraft questioning. In 2010, Dolphins G.M. Jeff Ireland asked Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. (Ireland later apologized.)

The NFL asserts that such questions violate existing league policies and are subject to discipline. A league spokesperson also says that the questioning of prospects was to be discussed at this week’s owners meeting.

Are the NFL and the players association doing enough to protect prospects from biased questions? Article 49 of the current CBA declares, “There will be no discrimination in any form against any player … because of … sexual orientation.” But is a draft prospect who is not yet a member of the NFLPA or of an NFL team—and may never become one—fully protected by Article 49?

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To read the rest, click here.  For other Situationist posts on homophobia, click here.

Posted in Law, Life, Situationist Contributors, Situationist Sports | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Bran-Scan Lie Detectors

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 15, 2013

Brain Scan Lie DetectorLauren Kirchner of Pacific Standard Magazine has an interesting piece on the science on brain-scan lie detectors and concerns about law enforcement using them.

* * *

The brain-scan “guilt detection test” is a newer technology that supposedly measures electrical activity in the brain, which would be triggered by specific memories during an interrogation. “When presented with reminders of their crime, it was previously assumed that their brain would automatically and uncontrollably recognize these details,” explains a new study published last week by psychologists at the University of Cambridge. “Using scans of the brain’s electrical activity, this recognition would be observable, recording a ‘guilty’ response.”

Law enforcement agencies in Japan and India have started to use this tool to solve crimes, and even to try suspects in court. These types of tests have not caught on with law enforcement in the U.S., though they are commercially available here. That’s probably a good thing; the researchers of this study found that “some people can intentionally and voluntarily suppress unwanted memories.”

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To read the rest, click here.  For a related Situationist post, see Tamara Piety on Lie Detection.

Posted in Law, Neuroscience | Leave a Comment »

Alex Laskey on Social Situation of Energy Use

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 9, 2013

From TED: What’s a proven way to lower your energy costs? Would you believe: learning what your neighbor pays. Alex Laskey shows how a quirk of human behavior can make us all better, wiser energy users, with lower bills to prove it.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Education, Environment, Video | Leave a Comment »

Dan Ariely on the Psychology of Cheating

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 6, 2013

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely studies the bugs in our moral code: the hidden reasons we think it’s OK to cheat or steal (sometimes). Clever studies help make his point that we’re predictably irrational — and can be influenced in ways we can’t grasp.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Morality, Social Psychology, Video | 1 Comment »

Francesca Gino on the Situation of Being Sidetracked

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 3, 2013

Excerpts from an interview of Situationist friend Francesca Gino by Gareth Cook from Scientific American:

There is an area of self-help devoted to advice on completing tasks, and the focus is generally on the positive: How to get organized, how to choose good goals, how to stay motivated, etc. Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, also wants to help you achieve your goals, but she begins with the negative. What are the psychological forces that send people off the rails? In Sidetracked, she argues that to succeed we first need to know our enemy, the often-unconscious factors that stop us from getting things done. Then we can fight back. She answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

Why did you write this book?

Many of the ideas I study and write about are motivated by my personal experience and by what surrounds me –interesting patterns of behavior that often, at first glance, make little sense. Sidetracked focuses on situations where we set out to accomplish specific goals but ended up reaching different outcomes –outcomes we often regret. Think of a time when you had a clear plan of action—a new career path, a diet you intended to follow, an exciting regular workout plan, a new saving plan for retirement, a new hire in your team, or a new car you were planning to buy after much research and deliberation. What happened when it came time to make decisions in pursuit of your goal? You may have found yourself following a course of action that took you completely off track. I certainly found myself in this type of situations many times in the past. And when talking to friends and colleagues, I discovered that they shared similar experiences where they got sidetracked as they were implementing their well thought-out plans.

In Sidetracked, I explain how even simple and seemingly irrelevant factors have profound consequences on our decisions and behavior, diverting us from our original plans. Most of us care a good deal about being consistent—we care about following through on our goals and wishes. And we also aim to behave in ways that are consistent with our self-image as capable, competent, and honest individuals. But often, without our knowledge, subtle influences—often unexpected—steer us away from what we initially planned or wanted. As a result, our decisions fail to align with our best intentions.

I wrote Sidetracked to discuss the main set of forces that prevent us from following through on our plans, and to identify a set of principles we can apply to stay on track going forward. My book describes theses forces using examples and case studies from personal and professional domains, as well as research that I conducted with amazing colleagues over the last ten years.

You say that very small things can throw people off their plans. Can you give some examples of what you mean by this?

* * *

Some of my research examines the role of forces that sidetrack us in the context of morality. In general, once we identify a goal we want to reach, we develop plans that can help us reach that goal. For instance, in the case of our moral goals, we may decide to volunteer regularly or spend some time each week helping others. Yet, even if our moral goals and plans are clear, subtle forces can lead us astray. Here’s an example of how this may happen. Have you or a friend ever bought a knock-off product like pair of faux “designer” sunglasses or a fake watch? If so, would you believe they may have colored the way you viewed the world—not just literally, but more fundamentally? In fact, those cheap sunglasses might have degraded your moral behavior. In a series of experiments, my colleagues Mike Norton, Dan Ariely, and I found that people were more likely to act dishonestly when they were wearing fake products, such as designer copycats. In our studies, participants who thought they were wearing knock-off sunglasses (in fact, the $300 sunglasses were quite real) were more likely to cheat on various problem-solving tasks than participants who were told they were wearing designer lenses. It seems that what we wear influences how we feel (inauthentic) and behave (dishonestly), whether we realize it or not, even when our goal is to act honestly and follow our moral compass.

But getting things done is also a matter of motivation, right? You have to really want to finish what you started.

Yes, motivation is clearly an important ingredient in following through on our plans. But, as it turns out, the same set of forces that derail our decisions can also influence our motivation to get things done. Here’s how. My colleague Scott Wiltermuth and I conducted a series of studies to examine how we could boost individuals’ motivation and effort. In our research, Scott and I varied how we framed potential rewards to study participants so that they would perceive them as belonging to two categories or only one. The categories were pure fiction: in fact, in some of our studies we put potential rewards (which consisted in a variety of useful objects, such as pens or notebooks) in two separate containers rather than in just one. And yet, the completely arbitrary categories we created affected participants’ motivation. In one study, participants were over three times as likely to work on a task for the full amount of time they were given when the potential rewards were divided into two categories.

By creating meaningless categories, we triggered a feeling in participants that they would be missing out if they did not get a reward from the second category available to them. This type of fear seems to drive many of the decisions we make in our personal and professional lives. In the case of my research with Scott, participants felt a sense of fear that they would miss out on some of the available rewards (those belonging to a different category). But this fear can be more general –from the feeling of missing out on special deals to the fear of missing out on an event our friends are attending. It explains why I often spend endless hours waiting in line so that I can be the first to see a highly rated movie or to buy the latest iPhone. And have you ever signed up for store email lists so that you won’t miss out on the latest deals? I certainly have.

What are some of the concrete techniques that you’d suggest people use to not get sidetracked?

* * *

You can read Professor Gino’s answer  to that question (and the entire interview) here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Emotions, Marketing, Positive Psychology, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

 
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