Transparency: A Cure for the “High” of Cheating

“Appalled.” That’s the comment by behavioral ethics researchers who have concluded that cheaters cheat because they get a “high” from unethical behavior. A new study finds that cheaters in a variety of experiments felt an emotional boost that the honest participants did not: a sense of thrill, self-satisfaction, and superiority. Unethical behavior is being increasingly studied to understand what prompts people to breach core values, why cheating seems to be on the rise, and what solutions might help curb it. One main reason for dishonesty: there are many ways to cheat anonymously, especially via the Web. One suggested remedy? Transparency. The insistent calls for accountability in business and in government are a powerful retort to the shadowy transgressions that rules-following, law-abiding citizens suspect—rightly—are at the root of much malfeasance.

John Howell, Editorial Director