Sunday, September 1, 2013

Do We Really Understand the Impact of Cheating?

According to Frank, Gilovic, and Regan (1996), business students, who are future business practitioners, are likely to be less ethical than students in other faculties, and may be more prone to cheating. Furthermore, the frequency of cheating in universities has been found to be substantially related to the propensity to cheat at work (Lawson, 2004).  
In recent research it has been found that cheating among undergraduates has become rampant (Simkin & McLeod, 2010). Furthermore, according to research results, the frequency of cheating increased between 1940 and 1982; Ogilby (1995) found that self-reported undergraduate cheating increased from 23% to 84% during that period, (p.933).
Jianfeng Yang’s aim in a recent study was to bridge gap in the current literature using the theory of planned behavior to predict Chinese business students’ cheating behavior – an investigation that is, to my knowledge, the first in which this topic has been studied empirically, (p.934).
In the 21st century Chinese undergraduates are growing up in a market economy with uniquely Chinese characteristics, where more and more business organizations, government departments, and academic institutions have become entangled in various scandals. An example of one such scandal is that of Sanlu, Milk Powder. The Sanlu Group, a leading Chinese dairy producer, found some of its milk powder products were contaminated with melamine, a chemical raw material, but did not order an immediate recall of the affected products.
As a result, tainted milk powder caused hundreds of infants to develop kidney stones. Like their Western counterparts (McCabe & Treviño, 1996), Chinese undergraduates feel skeptical when they arrive on campus and hear orientation speeches about the lofty virtues of education, and many of them think those virtues have nothing to do with the real world. Advertisements for cheating instruments are posted all around the campus at Chinese universities, in such places as toilets, dormitories, and stairways, (p.934).
The theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1985), an extension of the theory of reasoned action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), has received strong endorsement in a wide variety of volitional behavior domains (Ajzen, 1991; Armitage & Conner, 2001; Elliott, Armitage, & Baughan, 2003). According to the theory of planned behaviour, behavioral intentions and perceived behavioral control are the main determinants of behavior. Intentions are determined independently by attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control (Ajzen, 1985; Elliott et al., 2003). The core difference between the theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behaviour is that – according to the latter – perceived behavioral control is included as a determinant of behavior and intention. Both theories posit that people are rational and make systematic use of information available to them when making decisions (Chang, 1998). The theory of reasoned action even posits that behaviors are under the total volitional control of the performers, (p.935)
Perceived behavioral control refers to the perception of the difficulty or ease of performing the target behavior. There are two common definitions of perceived behavioral control. The first, like self-efficacy, refers to an individual’s belief that he or she has the capacity to behave in a particular way and to overcome any obstacles he or she might encounter (Hurtz & Williams, 2009). The second refers to perceptions of the presence or absence of facilitating factors (e.g., resources and instruments) that would enable or prohibit the behavior. For example, in the case of student cheating, if students can access cheating instruments easily, they would be more likely to cheat.
So what does this mean for the future of business and potential future business leaders if the perception at undergraduate level is that ‘cheating’ is an acceptable risk – a behavior ‘learnt’ from students perceptions of the business environment.
Business commentators often have a ‘chuckle’ when some corporate heavyweight is caught in some misdemeanor, but they regularly forget the impact this has on many impressionable students. Should they know better – absolutely – but it doesn’t help the future cause of business when serious misconduct is often rewarded with celebrity style publicity and a simple slap on the wrist for the offending executive.
Remember we reap what we sow; and hence we should be very careful about the image we portray about what is and what is not acceptable business practice.
Yang, J. (2012). Predicting Cheating Behavior: A Longitudinal Study with Chinese Business Students. Social Behavior and Personality. Vol. 40, Issue 6, p.933-944.

No comments:

Post a Comment