Cheaters DO prosper according to new study

Research from the University of Washington reveals that people who cheat and get away with it feel better about themselves - as long as no one gets hurt

Neela Debnath
Friday 13 September 2013 15:30 BST

A study has revealed that people who cheat actually feel better about themselves, but only if they think they have not hurt anyone else through their dishonesty.

The research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that those who were dishonest felt a 'cheater's high' rather than any feelings of guilt or remorse.

Participants of the experiment thought they would feel bad after they cheated but were surprised when they actually felt better. The study also showed that those who cheated in maths and logic problems were happier than those who did not cheat in these tests.

Previous studies have revealed that people feel bad after doing something unethical if it harms someone else. However, this new experiment shows that as long as no one is affected negatively by a misdeed then the cheater feels positive.

The study's lead researcher Nicole E. Ruedy of the University of Washington said: "The good feeling some people get when they cheat may be one reason people are unethical even when the payoff is small."

"It’s important that we understand how our moral behavior influences our emotions. Future research should examine whether this ‘cheater’s high’ could motivate people to repeat the unethical behavior."

The study was carried out jointly between the University of Washington, Harvard University, London Business School and the University of Pennsylvania, and involved over 1,000 people from England and America.

The results should not come as much of a shock, only this week nearly half of all new students at Harvard University admitted to cheating in their studies. According to a survey carried out by the university's newspaper, a tenth of people admitted to cheating on an exam, with athletics students most likely to cheat.

So whether writing down the answers on your hand before an exam or using the Internet during a pub quiz, cheating appears to produce a positive effect - as long as no one gets hurt.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in