To Cheat or Not to Cheat: Evidence on Ethical Decision-Making From a Study of Arab Youth
Calvert W. Jones
November 30, 2015
How do young people make judgments about what is right and ethical? The challenge of cultivating ethical citizens is one that every community faces, yet it has received only limited research attention, with almost no work on this subject having been done in the Arab world. This paper summarizes much of what we know about how youth engage in ethical decision-making, with an emphasis on educational settings in which students are confronted with the question of whether to cheat or not. Its broader aim is to begin a more systematic and evidence-based discussion of the factors that influence ethical decision-making in the Middle East, which may have important implications not only for education but also for political and economic development.
The paper first provides an overview of research on dishonesty, particularly cheating in schools and the question of whether cheating is ever justified. Second, it provides a conceptual outline of strategies that may be used to combat cheating and other forms of unethical behavior. The classification of strategies presented is based on differing (but not mutually exclusive) perspectives on the reasons for dishonesty in any given situation, including perspectives that emphasize external costs and benefits, social norms, self-awareness, and self-deception. Third, the paper summarizes findings from an original study of the attitudes and ethical choices of a sample of Arab students in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).