Skip menu

To cheat or not to cheat? Reasoning and individual differences underpinning contract cheating

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 11:30am – 12:00pm parallel session



Room 9 – 3030-G23 MLT1



Kiata Rundle
Murdoch University, Australia

Dr Guy J Curtis
Murdoch University, Australia

Dr Joe Clare
University of Western Australia, Australia



Academic assessment is regularly used in higher education to measure student learning. Student engagement in cheating behaviours, particularly contract cheating (i.e. paying a third party to complete a university assessment on their behalf) are around 3.5% (Curtis & Clare, 2017; Newton, 2018). To date, no research has compared the reasons why students do engage in contract cheating to the reasons why they do not nor how individual differences, such as personality, differ between the two groups. This study was informed by contemporary findings in this space and draws upon theoretical reasons for offending, such as the General Theory of Crime. An online survey was conducted and shared over social media. Over 1300 responses from university students from around the world including Australia and New Zealand, the UK, the USA, and numerous African, Asian, and European countries were collected (n = 26 contract cheaters, n = 1291 non-contract cheaters). Measures of the dark triad personality traits (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy), self-control, competence, and grit were included alongside measures of reasons for engaging and not engaging in contract cheating. The dark triad personality traits are associated with unethical behaviour such as cheating (Muris, Merckelbach, Otgaar, & Meijer, 2017). Results showed that students who engage in contract cheating are more likely to exhibit characteristics of the dark triad. Cheaters and non-cheaters reported significant differences in the importance of certain reasons for their behaviours. For example, non-cheaters rated moral and normative reasons for their behaviour as more important than did cheaters. In contrast, cheaters rated opportunity to cheat as more important to their behaviour than non-cheaters. A CHAID (chi-square automatic interaction detector) analysis revealed that contract cheaters were significantly more likely to be male, or to be females who were high in narcissism, than non-cheaters. These results aim to inform detection and prevention of student engagement in contract cheating.


Presentation topic

Students – Learning

Print Friendly, PDF & Email