Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Effect of Dispositional Traits on Pharmacy Students' Attitude toward Cheating

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Effect of Dispositional Traits on Pharmacy Students' Attitude toward Cheating

Article excerpt


Cheating occurs at all academic levels and many students accept academic dishonesty as normal. (1,2) The surge in cheating seems to have been exacerbated by the proliferation of technology, erosion of ethics and accountability in society, and the ever-increasing stakes associated with attaining an education. Retention or failure to progress in a program often has a negative impact on the students' immediate financial well-being as a result of scholarship loss or initiation of student loan repayment. (3-6) Given the numerous incentives, cheating occurs across disciplines and beyond college into diverse professions. (7-12)

Several studies suggest that cheating is prevalent and steadily increasing in health disciplines that place significant emphasis on high ethical standards, integrity, and professionalism, such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and nursing. (7,12-16) Baldwin and colleagues reported that 39% of medical student respondents witnessed some type of cheating among classmates during the first 2 years of their medical education, 67% had heard about cheating, and 5% admitted cheating during medical school. (17) In a survey of 253 baccalaureate and associate-degree nursing students, 61% to 94% of students had witnessed peer cheating, while 8% to 39% had cheated themselves. (18) In pharmacy colleges and schools, a similar trend of academic dishonesty also has become prevalent, where as many as 80% of students admit cheating or witnessing cheating while attending pharmacy school. (19-21)

Numerous studies cataloging cheating behavior consistently report that predictors of student cheating include opportunity to cheat, academic standing, life experiences, being male, and institutional setting. However, few studies have described the behavioral characteristics, attitudes, and external factors that explicitly lead to academic dishonesty among pharmacy students or focused on the correlation between certain dispositional traits and the likelihood of risky cheating behavior.

Those who cheat as students are more prone to participate in unethical activities as professionals in clinical and workplace settings. (2-23) Given the increasing number of pharmacy colleges and schools and the growing interest in pursuing pharmacy degrees, individuals with varying dispositional traits will be admitted to pharmacy programs and ultimately become practicing pharmacists. Dispositional traits are defined as those internal characteristics which govern how individuals behave. Thus, it is imperative to identify personality types and attitudes associated with cheating so that appropriate interventions can be developed to counteract unethical behavior and maintain the integrity and standards of the profession.

This study explored the perceptions and behavior of pharmacy students based on individual, interpersonal, and institutional variables. Specifically, it examined whether the absence or presence of certain traits affects student propensity to participate in academic dishonesty, including Machiavellianism, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and lifestyle orientations, such as idealism (the absolute adherence to ethical or honorable principles as the standard regardless of circumstances), and relativism (ability to rationalize that a potential unethical action may be appropriate if it produces a positive outcome for the person).

These variables were included based on previous observations in a population of primarily business students that those who displayed fewer traits of idealism were more accepting of peer cheating, (8) and that higher levels of Machiavellianism, defined as the need to develop and defend one's power and success, were associated with higher levels of relativism (pragmatism) and lower levels of idealism. (8)

The study model was designed to answer the following research questions:

(1) Will self-esteem, self-efficacy, Machiavellianism, tolerance for peer cheating, detachment from the university, grade point average, and annual income influence idealism? …

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