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Religious Orientation, Incentive, Self-Esteem, and Gender as Predictors of Academic Dishonesty: An Experimental Approach

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It is widely assumed that religion is responsible for dictating and guiding moral behavior. This study investigated that claim and its relationship to monetary incentive, self-esteem, and gender within the context of academic dishonesty. A sample of 65 undergraduate students (32 men; 33 women) were assessed using a revision of Allport's Religious Orientation Scale (Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989) and then monitored for cheating on a computerized version of the Graduate Records Exam under different experimental conditions. Self-esteem (high, average, low) and monetary incentive ($5, nothing) were manipulated, and gender was selected to measure their effect on cheating behavior. Results of this study found that: (1) participants' religious orientation was not related to their tendency to cheat in any way; (2) participants cheated significantly more when receiving monetary incentive for their performance than when they did not; (3) participants with induced low self-esteem cheated significantly more than those with induced high self-esteem; and (4) men cheated more than women at a level that bordered on significance (p < .06). Academic performance (GPA) was not found related to academic cheating. Findings are discussed in the context of existing literature.


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