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Battle of the Sexes - Cheating and Essay Writing

By Greg Lancaster

Is there a difference between men and women when it comes to their motivations for cheating?

[And by cheating we are talking about cheating in school, hiring an essay writing service, using cheat notes in class, etc. For once we are not talking about relationships and cheating on your wife/husband.]

There is more and more pressure in school to be the best in university and college. Students are using more alternative (otherwise known as academically dishonest) resources to get that elusive grade because of that pressure. You hear of people getting access to tests from former students or people who get someone else to write their essay for them at major universities - especially in bigger cities like Toronto and NYC. The companies that promote their essay writing services focus on the biggest cities the most.

Now, of course, strictly speaking these methods are not in keeping with academic honesty, which usually states that the work you hand in is the work you created with your own hands and thoughts. So if you get someone else to give you information that you should not have or you get someone to write or help you write something that you should have written yourself in order to the upper hand you are effectively "cheating". So essentially, what people are doing is not in keeping with the spirit of pursuing academic endeavours - and not really learning anything either.

However for our purposes does we have to ask the question, do motivations for cheating differ for men and women?

If we look at studies we start to get an impression of what students think about cheating and what contributes to their motives for cheating. In one study, that looked at over 500 students in 3 different universities in the United States of America, researchers found that the students were much more accepting of cheating behaviour as a whole than the faculty expected them to be. The study focused on student in business related studies (accounting, management, marketing, etc...) and found that they were sometimes unaware that a certain behaviour was cheating behaviour (or so they said), unaccepting that it was cheating behaviour or uncaring that it was cheating behaviour.

In general, people feel that men are more likely to cheat than women. Women are seen as the fairer sex and that they are nurturing and caring. It is hard to imagine your loving and caring mother as that massively unethical cheating person because it just goes against what our image of mothers are. Men on the other hand are seen as aggressive and powerful so cheating behaviour is a little more naturally ascribed to them. The dichotomy is also seen when our perception of how men and women behave in relation to cheating does not meet our expectation. If women are found to be cheaters we tend to reprimand them more harshly than we would a man.

According to essay writing companies, approx. 80% of their clients are women. (And not just once, many of them come back for multiple essays, assignments, research papers, or even dissertations.)

Academic literature starts to confirm the common sense that we were discussing above in terms of the conditions that allow men and women to cheat. Academic literature also looked at correlation between cheating behaviour and men and cheating behaviour in women. It is already known that men are more likely to take risks than women (insurance companies use that fact to justify higher insurance rates for men). Women, on the other hand, are taught to believe that the impression they leave with others is a very important thing so they should do their best to preserve positive impressions and dispel negative impressions (this is basically the plot of the Scarlet Letter and the reason why young girls are taught to close their legs at all times). But given the right set of circumstances (including a small possibility of being caught or a possible excuse that could preserve one's positive impressions) women would feel able to cheat.

And not just able, but also feel like they are under pressure to cheat because they are under more pressure to do well in school than men are.

if we look at who cheats more another study collected data from many other studies sheds a little like. It found that 21% of women and 26% of men reported having cheated (again, academics - not relationships). When an extremely large sample was removed the numbers increased dramatically to 60% for both men and women.

Combine that with what essay writing companies say about how 80% of their clients being women and we must conclude that men and women cheat in different ways. Women are apparently cheating on essays more, whereas men must be cheating on tests or other methods of cheating more.

So, it seems clear that there really is no difference between men and women in terms of likelihood of cheating as there is mostly there is no difference or no major differences in percentages - the only big differences is the methods men and women employ to cheat.

The other significant factor is how socialization affects why a person cheats. Socialization dictates that factors that contribute to whether a person will take the risk at all. Men do it because they are socialized to be riskier and women do it if they think that people's impression of them could be diminished if they don't score better grades.

Cheating is ubiquitous in the world. I am sure that few of us can say that we have never cheated before. But maybe we should not blame ourselves perhaps it was just the way we were brought up... a culture in which cheating on spouses is frowned upon, but people do it anyway.

And thus cheating on an essay is still frowned upon, but people do it anyway.

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