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Dishonesty and Honor Code: Review of Literature

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People tend to justify their dishonest behaviour and forget adverse ethical standards to their acts for their peace of mind unconsciously, a set of experiments shows. This will explain why there is prevalent dishonesty of ordinary people without showing regret and feeling guilty despite most people think that they have enough common sense to do right things. For instance, truancy from work, exaggeration of achievement in applying for jobs, or punching timecards incorrectly could be thought to be acceptable because nobody will be hurt. Prior researches have examined this escape from morality, convincing oneself that it is permissive to prevent psychological discomfort, as a predictor of decisions or behaviour; justification precedes questionable actions. In contrast, this new research is very unique in that it investigated the process of persuading as a consequence of dishonest behaviour and as a consequence of a morally permissive situation, focusing on cheating.

Shu, Gino, and Bazerman conducted four experiments to test relationship between dishonesty, the subsequent moral disengagement and forgetting moral standards in different conditions which were mainly whether environment was permissive or not, whether participants were shown ethical code or not and whether moral awareness is through active behaviour: signing to an honor code, or passive observation: just reading ethical code. Researchers used hypotheses scenarios and real opportunities to cheat. After participants are exposed to either hypotheses scenarios or actual chance to cheat, the researchers ask them to rate the extent to which they agree with necessity of moral observance. In addition, the researchers set out to learn how much they remember ethical code, which is told to read at the beginning of experiment.

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Across studies, four main point was found. Firstly, behaving dishonestly caused to change levels of moral disengagement, demonstrating which is not only predictive factor of wrongdoing, but also could be result from unethical deed. Secondly, participants who cheated remembered fewer items of the honor code than participants who did not, indicating that moral disengagement mediated the effect of dishonesty on memory correctly remembered. Thirdly, participants cheated more when they had the opportunity to cheat easily than when they did not. Finally, cheating increased when participants did not read or sign the honor code than when they did. What it more, signing the honor code reduced cheating to almost zero.

‘On one hand, we find that once people behave dishonestly, they are able to morally disengage, setting off a downward spiral of future bad behavior and ever more lenient moral codes. Yet we also provide evidence that this slippery slope can be forestalled with simple measures, such as honor codes, that increase people’s awareness of ethical standards’, noted the researchers. This research has significant benefits because the method to prevent dishonesty is simple and applicable to various area, for example, claiming tax deduction, taking exam, or using dating apps. In other words, environment should be improved before dishonest person is blamed.

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Dishonesty and Honor Code: Review of Literature. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
“Dishonesty and Honor Code: Review of Literature.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
Dishonesty and Honor Code: Review of Literature. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Feb. 2023].
Dishonesty and Honor Code: Review of Literature [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from:
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