Everyone will cheat a little says Dan Ariely, Ph.D., psychologist, author and behavioral economics researcher at Duke University. Studies gave people 5 minutes to solve as many number tasks as possible on a piece of paper. The people were asked to count their correct answers and tell how many problems they solved. Another group of people put their papers through a shredder after they were done and then were asked how many they got correct. This group inflated their numbers of correct answers. Most people cheated when they didn’t think they’d be found out.
What led people to cheat more? Having an obvious cheater in the room. What discouraged people from cheating? Reminders of morality. In another experiment involving the same problem solving tasks, people were asked to recall the Ten Commandments prior to doing the task. The group who could shred their papers didn’t cheat when provided with this “moral reminder”.