Added pressure motivates college students to cheat

Despite outside forces, students solely responsible for academic dishonesty

The harrowing pressure to succeed skyrockets in a college classroom, making the urge to cheat even stronger than in high school.

But much of that urge comes from outside forces—including demands from professors and societal expectations.

“Motivation is one thing that predicts cheating,” said Ryan Rush, professor of psychology. “Specifically, as intrinsic motivation goes down and extrinsic motivation goes up, we see that cheating increases.”

A recent study published Sept. 22 in Psychological Science explored how an outside demand—those extrinsic motivations—could be a reason why some students cheat.

The researchers put young children into separate rooms. They then told a handful of these students they were doing a good job, or they were very smart.

When they left to observe their behaviors, they found the students they complimented were the ones who cheated. By being told that they are smart, the students felt a psychological pressure to live up to that reputation and cheat to meet those expectations.

This idea of pressure and extrinsic motivation is transferable to college students, who are expected to not only get good grades, but also to maintain active social lives, be involved in community work and prepare for the workforce.

“Cheating as a behavior is contagious,” Rush said.

In another study of 300 college students, only about 12 percent said they never cheated. That means 88 percent of those students have cheated in their lifetime.

Such a high number demands a way to x this issue. But the question then remains: How can we stop students from feeling so much pressure to do well without lowering expectations?

At Franklin College, the rules in place to prevent cheating are explicit. With such a specific definition and punishment, faculty are able to recognize the types of cheating and plagiarism that occur and make them clear to the students.

For the offense, students will receive an F or a zero on the work they cheated in. A second offense will result in the student’s dismissal from the college.

There’s only so much a college can do to prevent these instances. Cheating ultimately falls on the student.

Students must learn to balance the extrinsic motivators that compel them to cheat with their own moral compass. How important is a good grade in comparison to the guilt and lack of learning you receive when deciding to cheat?

If these factors prove to be too much to handle, ask for help. Students should express to their professors they are struggling with the material, and he or she will provide them with the resources to better control the urge to cheat.

Thinking about cheating? Next time, think about the consequences. Do you really want to have academic dishonesty on your permanent record?


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About Matthew Brown 13 Articles
Matthew Brown is a news writer for The Franklin. As you can tell from his column, Matthew likes to write a lot about science, but is a huge fan of writing as well. Matthew hopes to graduate with a double major; a biology one and a journalism one. This is Matthew's second year as a staff writer for The Franklin.

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