Tag Archives: Cheating

When Is It OK to Bend the Rules?

Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 11.58.14 PMA couple of days ago I shared a link on Facebook to a video of a contestant (a young contestant) on Jeopardy!. The post sparked a bit of conversation, so I thought I’d give it a bit more attention. The long and short of it is that the contestant incorrectly spelled the Final Jeopardy! question. As a result of this misspelling, he was scored as having answered the question wrong, even though everyone in the building and watching at home knew that he “answered” the question correctly. It seems that because of the rules that the judges had previously set forth, they couldn’t give the kid the benefit of the doubt, even though the misspelling only included one extra ‘T’ in two words that totaled 23 letters.

To put a bit more detail on this situation: the clue (or “answer,” as it’s known in Jeopardy!), was trying to get the contestants to write down: Emancipation Proclamation. This one particularly contestant wrote down: EmancipTation Proclamation. Now, d’you think that this is close enough to give the contestant the benefit of the doubt?

Based on Alex Trebek‘s (the host) reaction to what the contestant had written down, I think that he thinks the kid should have gotten the benefit of the doubt. You can hear him stalling for time in the video as the judges make their decision. After Trebek relays the decision to the contestant (and the audience), he tries to offer a bit of reasoning for this decision. It sounds like the “closeness” of an answer is determined in advance of the show for which the questions will be used. Meaning, even though the ages of the contestants on the show are between 10 and 12, the severity with which the judges were scoring the questions could have been as if adults were playing. Is this fair? Is it fair to adjust the rules?

As I reflected on this and some of the reaction that it precipitated on Facebook, I wondered how folks would react if the scenario weren’t a game show. What if this scenario were in a school setting? If the student incorrectly misspells the word, they’ll likely get it wrong — on a spelling test. But what if the test has short answers? Do they then get points because the professor/teacher knew what they were talking about? Do they get full credit? Does the professor/teacher take off a fraction of a point?

I don’t have a definitive answer for any of these questions, but it’s certainly something to think about when we reflect on when we think it’s okay to bend the rules.


The Psychology of the Petraeus Affair

I’ve had this link on my list of things to write about for a few days and even though it’s not the most compelling thing to write about right now, I wanted to make sure I wrote about it before it got to be too far away from the incident. The link is a panel discussing the motives behind the Petraeus affair.

The only thing I’ve written so far is my bafflement with Petraeus’ forced resignation “because of possible blackmail.” When I heard about this discussion, I thought I should also add something to the discussion. Some of the reasons that were discussed in the video/article:

  • Invincibility
  • Self-sabotage
  • “God made us this way”
  • “Men are simply no good”
  • Opportunity
  • Risk-seeking behavior (paired with the first one, invincibility)

While those are all plausible explanations, some carry more weight than others. Better yet, I think that there is an important one missing from this list: drive.

As the panelists tell us, this is not the first time that we’ve seen high-profile people and infidelity. In fact, this isn’t even something that’s limited to politicians — athletes do, too. Both Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods come to mind as two very high-profile athletes who’ve publicly admitted to infidelity. (I say publicly admitted because who knows how many other accounts of infidelity there have been that the public has not been privy to.) In researching for this article, I came across a good summary of the literature on infidelity in a post about Tiger Woods:

The precursors to cheat could be summarized as:

  • Significant, ongoing, unresolved problems in the primary, long-term relationship or marriage
  • A significant difference in sex drive between the two partners
  • The older the primary relationship
  • A greater difference in personality than perhaps the partners realize
  • And to a far lesser extent, perhaps some theoretical, evolutionary remnants that may have reinforced multiple partners over monogamy (although this is just a hypothetical argument that would be difficult to disprove)

While these are some helpful (in understanding) precursors to cheating, there’s still one more I want to discuss — personality. Yes, personality is named in this list, but I don’t think that it adequately gets to the point I’d like to make.

File:Triangular Theory of Love.svg

Think about the kind of personality required to make it to the levels that Petraeus, Woods, and Bryant have. It takes quite a bit of discipline, dedication, and perseverance. These men didn’t just wake up one day at the pinnacle of their professions. They worked hard for it. While, of course, talent plays a big role in being able to make it to the upper-echelon, drive also plays a big part, too. It is this drive that I think plays a large part in infidelity. It’s almost as if we could theorize that there’s a triangle.

In fact, it reminds me of Sternberg’s triangular theory of love (pictured above-left). I would argue that drive is one of the vertices of a triangle, invincibility is another, and opportunity is the third. Without these three things present, one won’t necessarily cheat. Similarly, with these three vertices present, one won’t necessarily cheat. Though, when these three vertices are present, I would bet that the incidence of cheating is elevated.

Why We Lie, Cheat, and Steal: The Truth About Dishonesty

I’ve just finished the 5th week of my 4th year of graduate school. For folks that have been in graduate school this long, there’s usually a development of research interests. Because of the nature of my time in graduate school (1 year in a PhD program, 1 year completing my first Master’s, and now into year two of an MBA), I never really had to declare my research interests or choose a dissertation topic. Though, for my first master’s, I did have to write a final paper. That final paper was on a topic that, if I were asked, would probably appear on a list of my “research interests.” It was on intuition and decision-making. Ironically, I’m working with a professor at George Mason University to test whether or not one can improve the conditions for one’s intuition (in the context of decision-making).

If I were to list another research interest, I’d have to say that it’d be on the topic of ethics or morals. Ironically, during my time as an undergrad, I worked on a research project with a psychology professor where we were examining (among other things) people’s moral judgments. I’ve had an RSA Animate talk bookmarked for about two weeks and I just finished watching it — I think you’ll enjoy it.

It was given by Dan Ariely on the content of his new book: The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves. Ariely is also the researcher I referenced a few months ago when I was talking about the research on American’s perceptions and misperceptions of wealth inequality. I’ve pulled a few important quotes from the video:

“The magnitude of dishonesty we see in society is by good people who think they’re doing good, but in fact cheating just a little bit, but because there’s so many of them — of us — it has a tremendous economic impact.”

“You can’t go and say to yourselves, chef really want their food to be eaten. And it’s really owned by a conglomerate that is really not that good. Some things lend themselves to a much higher degree of rationalization.”

“At some point, many people switch and start cheating all the time. And we call this switching point the ‘what the hell’ effect. It turns out we don’t have to be 100% good to think of ourselves as good. But if at some point you don’t think of yourself as good, you might as well enjoy. And many people, by the way, report this same thing with diets.”

“Your motivation influences how you see reality.”