Captains of Industry, Masters of Cheating

By Richard Morin
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

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 if they had cheated in the past year -- and if so, how often.

A 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 & Education.

These future captains of industry led the way in scholarly swindling, but 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 previous year -- something to think about when you next drive over the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Those least likely to cut corners were grad students in the social sciences and humanities -- 39 percent said they had broken the rules.

McCabe and 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 2002-03 and 2003-04 academic years.

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

They found that about a third of business graduate students acknowledged committing three or more violations in the previous year. Ten percent said they committed two, and 13 percent said they committed one. Among non-business students, one in four said they cheated at least three times -- numbers that McCabe acknowledged probably 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."

Ugly North Americans

Perhaps they should call North 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.


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