Sep 11, 2011

Cheating at Duke Fuqua?

When Duke Professor Dan Ariely suspected some of his students were cheating, he did what any behavioral economist would do: He let his students run an experiment. The results of the experiment show many students are still tempted to cheat, but a reminder of a strong, direct honor code could be a deterrent, to a point. Ariely's experiment is also interesting because it took place at a university that has already had a cheating scandal and takes cheating seriously.

Ariely, a professor at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, where disciplinary action was taken against 34 MBA students after cheating was discovered on a take-home final in 2007, teaches a class on behavioral economics to undergrads at Duke's Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. Last semester, he came to believe that some of the 500 students in that class were glancing at other students' papers during weekly quizzes based on the similarity of their answers, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Blog.

Those suspicions led Ariely to discuss his own research on dishonesty and cheating with his class. After the discussion, two of his students decided to conduct the assigned research project on the class, using their own classmates as unwitting research subjects in a provocative experiment, he wrote on his blog.

The two students sent the class an email from a fictitious student and included a link to a website said to contain the answers to last year's final exam. Half of the emails also included a postscript: "P.S. I don't know if this is cheating or not, but here's a section of the University's Honor Code that might be pertinent. Use your own judgment: 'Obtaining documents that grant an unfair advantage to an individual is not allowed.'"

The link, which contained no answers, allowed the researchers to track who clicked on it using Google Analytics.

- by Bloomberg BW


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