Sexes differ over dishonesty says new study

Dishonesty is not the clear-cut concept the criminal courts assume because it can vary from person to person and situation to situation, according to one of the biggest-ever surveys of public attitudes to deceitful behaviour.

Women are more likely than men to categorise some behaviour as dishonest, although men are more likely than women to convict someone of a dishonest crime in a court of law, the study found.

Older people more readily judge someone as being dishonest than younger people, although the situation is reversed for certain youth-oriented offences such as cheating in exams or prying in someone else's email account.

The online study analysed the attitude of some 15,000 participants to 50 different scenarios in 10 categories that involved varying degrees of dishonest behaviour, from claiming for an expensive insurance fraud to eating grapes in a supermarket without paying for them.

The research was carried out by two academic criminologists who wanted to test a central thesis of what constitutes dishonesty in law, namely that dishonesty as a state of mind is based legally upon the "ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people".

"The law is based on an assumption that the majority in society hold the same views about what conduct is dishonest," said Stefan Fafinski, a criminal lawyer at Brunel University, who carried out the study. "Our research challenges that assumption. We found a great deal of disagreement, even upon very basic situations," Dr Fafinski said.

The study found 31 per cent of people thought it dishonest for someone to keep money found in the street, yet only 8 per cent would convict someone of theft for doing that if they were prosecuted.

Nearly two thirds of people said they had taken stationery home from work, but 82 per cent thought it dishonest, according to the study, released today at the British Science Festival at Surrey University, Guildford. Big discrepancies were found between online crime and physical crime. Nearly 97 per cent of participants said taking a DVD from a shop was dishonest, yet only 58 per cent thought it dishonest to download pirated music, and 49 per cent said it was dishonest to buy a pirate DVD.

Only 43 per cent of people called it dishonest for a carer to try to persuade an elderly person to change their will in their favour (twice as many thought it dishonest to wear a dress before returning it to the shop). Only 21 per cent would convict a carer of such an offence. Some 98 per cent of women considered it dishonest for a man to conduct an online romance behind his wife's back, but only 74 per cent of men agreed.

"Women are more likely to categorise a person's conduct as dishonest but less likely to convict that person of the offence," said Dr Emily Finch, a criminologist at Brunel University. "Female participants are more likely to excuse conduct by reference to the circumstances or character of the person involved."

News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Langley James : Field Support Engineer; Dynamics, SQL; Manchester, £33k+Car

£33000 - £36000 per annum + Car+Laptop+Phone: Langley James : Field Support En...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planning MRP Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's most progressive and innovativ...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Sales Executives

£19000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to our clients continuing s...

Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

£15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game