Dishonesty in the Classroom: The Effect of Cognitive Dissonance and the Mitigating Influence of Religious Commitment
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A controlled experiment was conducted with a cohort of graduate accounting students, which involved a mild form of deception during a class ethics quiz. One of the answers to a difficult question was inadvertently revealed by a visiting scholar, which allowed students an opportunity to use the answer in order to maximise test scores and qualify for a reward. Despite an attempt to sensitize students prior to the test to the importance of moral codes of conduct, a high incidence of cheating was reported. Students who took the opportunity to cheat were more condoning of the behaviour compared to control group members and this difference in attitudes was consistent regardless of the intensity of the issue specified in the survey. The cognitive dissonance associated with the academic dishonesty is believed to reveal behavioural orientations that reflect conscious and unconscious desires to alleviate the discomfort associated with the behaviour by attempting to condone it. This inappropriate behaviour appears to attract students professing no religious faith and is significantly influenced by the reported level of religious commitment.
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