Cheating your way through university?

In an unpublished study Marek Preiss, Tereza Mejzlíková, et al. focused on cheating behavior and the perception of cheating during university studies as well as attitudes toward cheating in one’s future working environment. University students from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic (N=1518) each completed an anonymous questionnaire concerning the perception of cheating and actual cheating behavior at university and at their anticipated place of work. As a majority of studies focus on business majors, this study encountered art majors, and therefore brought unique data connected to majors not typically associated with business. Additionally, this study included students from Eastern Europe, which brings valuable data from a region currently undergoing major social changes.

Analyses revealed correlations across four major variables with measures ranging from 0.17 to 0.41 (p<0.001) suggesting that university students are prone to cheating during their academic and also professional careers.  Additionally, their attitude toward cheating is more lenient compared to teachers or managers. During university studies, 6 out of 12 types of cheating were perceived by less than 50% of participants as cheating and data revealed a 62% (9-90%) occurrence of actual cheating behavior. Regarding their proposed working behavior, less than 50% of participants evaluated given items as obvious cheating and more than 50% of respondents could imagine engaging in work cheating behavior in 10 of 21 types of cheating. The revelation that the relationship between the perception of cheating and actual cheating behavior at university is tied with the perception of cheating at work confirms a link between these two settings. This connection is essential in lecture development which focuses on ethics and their impact on future work behavior.

The presented study also points out a considerable discrepancy between a potential employer´s conception of ethical behavior and the conception of ethical behavior from the young student´s perspective. These conceptions are markedly different and it could be expected that due to this discrepancy, especially at the beginning of the student´s career path, we might see collisions between the employer and the employee. Promoting and teaching business ethics could have a number of advantages, such as reconciling the expectations about ethical behavior of employers and employees.  Moreover, based on experimental studies we know that teaching business ethics can increase moral efficacy, moral courage and moral meaningfulness (May, Luth & Schwoerer, 2014).

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