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The Relationship of Impulsiveness, Personal Efficacy, and Academic Motivation to College Cheating

By Angell, Lance R. | College Student Journal, March 2006 | Go to article overview

The Relationship of Impulsiveness, Personal Efficacy, and Academic Motivation to College Cheating


Angell, Lance R., College Student Journal


This investigation focused on the interrelationships among the frequency of cheating behaviors, impulsiveness, personal efficacy, and academic motivation. Sixty-one undergraduate students from a small private Catholic college in the Northeast completed the Academic Integrity Scale, subscales from Kurtines' (1978) Autonomy and Paulus' (1983) Spheres of Control scales, and Vallerand et al.'s (1992) Academic Motivation Scale. Correlations were slight and significant at the p & .05 level. Pleasure/Satisfaction was negatively related to Test Assistance and positively related to Accomplishing. Future Well-Being was positively related to Plagiarism and negatively related to Impulsiveness. Plagiarism and Amotivation were positively related, as were Accomplishing and Intelligence. These findings are unique in that researchers have rarely found individual difference variables to be related to cheating behaviors.

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As society places greater emphasis on achievement and success, college cheating has reached epidemic proportions. Pino and Smith (2003) and Haines, Diekhoff, LaBeff, and Clark (1986) found that slightly more than half of the students they surveyed reported having cheated. Whitley (1998) noted that an average of 70 percent of the respondents in 107 studies had cheated in college, and Stern and Havlicek (1986), Michaels and Miethe (1989), and Cochran, Chamlin, Wood, and Sellers (1999) reported more than 80 percent.

Prior research on individual or personality variables of students who cheat has failed to uncover many substantial relationships. One exception is that Schwartz, Feldman, Brown, and Heingartner (1969) investigated moral reasoning ability, a cognitive trait, and cheating, and found that fewer students on the highest (postconventional) level, the principled level of moral reasoning according to Kohlberg's (1981) theory of moral development, cheated than those on the middle (conventional) level.

But neither Tang and Zuo (1997) nor Thorpe, Pittenger, and Reed (1999) found an association between self-esteem and cheating. Perry, Kane, Bernesser, and Spicker (1990) and Huss et al. (1993) found no relationship between Type A (achievement-oriented) personality and propensity to cheat, although Davis, Pierce, Yandell, Arnow, and Loree (1995) did find Type A students more likely to cheat on tasks over which they had no control. Thorpe et al. found no relationship between locus of control (using Levenson's 1973 scale consisting of the Internal, Powerful Others, and Chance subscales) and academic dishonesty. Nor did Antion and Michael (1983) find a relationship. Thorpe et al. suspected that Antion and Michael's sample was not large enough to detect a small locus-of-control effect size, and also that no relationship was found because the researchers had used a dated, unrefined measure of the construct.

An increasing number of schools (e.g., Northeastern U., University of Maryland) have instituted academic honor codes to curtail academic honesty, but the results have been mixed. Since the code's inception at the University of Maryland, an increased number of cheating incidents have been reported, and the expectation is that the trend is likely to continue (Flandez, 2002). If honor codes are not as effective as first hoped, researchers should continue to isolate personality traits related to the propensity to cheat so that academia can begin to develop a general personality profile of students who engage in such behavior. The purpose of the present study was to explore the relationships between two additional trait measures that are intuitively associated with college cheating, impulsiveness and Paulus'(1983) conception of personal efficacy, as well as to investigate the relationship between academic motivation and cheating.

Method

Sample and Procedures

A total of 61 undergraduate students from a small northeastern college completed the series of questionnaires described above assessing academic integrity, impulsiveness, personal efficacy, academic motivation, and socially desirable responding.

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