September 26, 2006

Getting a Grad Degree in Cheating

by Richard Morin

This may explain a lot: Not only do cheaters apparently prosper; they get graduate degrees in business.

That’s what business professor Donald L. McCabe of Rutgers University and his colleagues found when they surveyed more than 5,000 graduate students and asked them if they had cheated in the past year — and if so, how often.

A solid majority of MBA candidates (56 percent) acknowledged that they had cheated at least once, compared with 47 percent of graduate students in other disciplines, the researchers reported in the latest issue of Academy of Management Learning and Education.

But while these future captains of industry led the way in scholarly swindling, they didn’t finish first by much. Nearly as many graduate students in engineering (54 percent) said they had cheated at least once in the pervious year — something to think about when you next drive over the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Those least likely to cut corners: Grad students in the social sciences and humanities. Only 39 percent said they had broken the rules.

McCabe and his colleagues Kenneth D. Butterfield of Washington State University and Linda Klebe Trevino of Penn State University collected data from 5,331 business and non-business graduate students at 32 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada during the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 academic years.

The researchers asked how often, if at all, they had engaged in any of 13 specific behaviors, including cheating on test and exams, plagiarism, faking a bibliography or submitting work done by someone else.

They found that about a third of all business graduate students acknowledged committing three or more violations in the previous year while 10 percent said they committed two and 13 percent said they committed only one. Among non-business students, one in four said they cheated at least three times — numbers McCabe acknowledged likely understate the prevalence of cheating in both groups.

McCabe has studied cheating among undergraduates for more than 16 years. “On every study except one, business students come out on top,” he said. “Their attitude seems to be, ‘Hey, you have to — everybody else does it.’ And business students already have developed a bottom line mentality — anything to get the job done, however you have to do it.”

In addition to business students, he found that athletes and fraternity and sorority members seem prone to cheating.

McCabe said he once was a hard-liner on students who cheat. “I felt what we should do is string up three of them to serve as an example, but now I’m really sympathetic to students” — particularly athletes. “We make all these concessions to get athletes to come to these major universities and then we give them what amounts to a full-time job,” he said. “Cheating is almost a self-fulfilling prophesy. They aren’t cheating for a grade, just cheating to get something done.”

All-American Thugs

Perhaps they should call American hockey “Thugs On Ice.”

Two Canadian researchers compared overly aggressive play by National Hockey League players born in the United States and Canada with the play of NHL players born in Europe.

They found that players born in North America were far more likely to be penalized for fighting, unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct than players born in Europe.

American-born players wracked up, on average, 53 penalty minutes compared with 39 minutes for European natives, report Chris J. Gee and Larry M. Leith of the department of exercise sciences at the University of Toronto in the latest issue of Psychology of Sport and Exercise. What’s more, the longer European-born players were in the NHL, the more thuggish their behavior became. They based their results on data from the first 200 games of the 2003-2004 NHL regular season.

Did being an All-American Bad Boy on the ice pay off? Apparently not. Americans were no more likely than Europeans to score goals. Nor did their thuggery translate into proportionally more wins for their team, Gee and Leith found.

No, You Still Shouldn’t Drink and Drive

There are a lot of things that aren’t made today like they were made in the Good Old Days — including beer, wine and liquor.

Since the early 1950s, the alcohol content of alcoholic beverages has declined substantially, according to William Kerr and his colleagues at the Alcohol Research Group. The average alcohol content of liquor dropped five percentage points between the early 1950s and 1997, they report. At the same time, the average alcohol content of wine sold in the United States fell from 16.75 percent in 1950 to 10.49 percent in 1991, then rebounded to 11.45 in 2002. The alcohol content in beer fell from 5.02 percent in 1950 to 4.58 percent in 1993 and rose to 4.65 percent in 2002, Kerr found.

Their findings appear in the latest issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Who Would Have Thought?

Lucky Years and Mass Mailings

“Superstition, Family Planning, and Human Development” by Quy-Toan Do and Tung Duc Phung. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4001. World Bank researchers find that Vietnamese children born in so-called “lucky years” of the Zodiac calendar are healthier and better educated than those born in other years because they “are more likely to have been planned by their parents, thus benefiting from more favorable financial, psychological, or emotional conditions for better human development.”

“Irritation Due to Direct Mailings from Charities” by Merel van Diepen, Bas Donkers and Philip Hans Franses. Erasmus Research Institute of Management Report 2006-029. Business professors in the Netherlands discover that people will accept two mailings from charitable organizations soliciting donations before they start to get really irritated.