Cheating for Charity

Would you cheat for charity? No, I am not talking about having an extramarital affair with your favorite beautiful blonde stripper named Charity. A study at the University of Bath has sought to answer this question, using psychology and economics undergrads as the test subjects.

Part of the study involved the students rolling a die under a cup for only them to see the result. The numbers would relate to the amount of money the researchers would donate to cancer research. Here’s what they found:

“The key finding here is that the students tended to report higher numbers than you’d expect from a fair die. So, for example, 24.5 per cent of participants said they’d rolled a six whereas a fair die should have produced a figure of 17 per cent. The researchers estimated that this means 9 per cent of participants lied about rolling a six. This is substantially higher than the figure obtained in a previous study when participants were playing for their own cash reward and it therefore shows how people indulge in moral relativism. More people seem to think it’s okay to cheat if it’s for charity, than if it’s for their own gain.”

From BPS Research Digest

It also turns out that the economics undergrads were more likely to lie than the psychology undergrads. Being an economics major myself, I found this pretty interesting. The researchers are suggesting this study presents a cause for concern in financial institutions.

“At the level of individual differences it has been demonstrated that economists are more willing to cheat,” the researchers said. “This is of some concern given that people with economics degrees hold prominent positions in financial institutions.”

But weren’t they only more likely to cheat for charity? I don’t know many financial institutions that run like charities, therefore wouldn’t this be more of a concern for non-profits and charitable organizations?

Regardless, it’s a pretty interesting psychological study. I personally would have thought that individual greed would trump altruistic charity as a motivator for cheating. WSO, what do you think? Would you be more likely to cheat if it was for a good cause rather than to simply pad your pockets?


View this on WSO here.


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