Cheaters may not win, but winners tend to cheat.

By Seriously Science | February 8, 2016 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Craig Sunter

Image: Flickr/Craig Sunter

What makes people cheat? Is it a desire for public recognition? Or perhaps the prize is just too tempting? Well, according to these scientists, part of the answer might be a sense of entitlement. Here, researchers had participants compete head-to-head in estimating how many objects appeared on a computer screen, with the winners receiving a pair of JVC earbuds. The participants then played a game in which they shook two dice, peeked at the number they added up to (which no one else could see), and received that same number of coins. It turns out that the lucky earbud winners were more likely to lie about the number and pocket more than their due, suggesting that winning the previous competition influenced the participants’ decision to cheat. This, and data from other experiments, led the researchers to conclude that it’s the winners’ feelings of entitlement that led them astray. We, on the other hand, bet it was the JVC earbuds.

Winning a competition predicts dishonest behavior.

“Winning a competition engenders subsequent unrelated unethical behavior. Five studies reveal that after a competition has taken place winners behave more dishonestly than competition losers. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that winning a competition increases the likelihood of winners to steal money from their counterparts in a subsequent unrelated task. Studies 3a and 3b demonstrate that the effect holds only when winning means performing better than others (i.e., determined in reference to others) but not when success is determined by chance or in reference to a personal goal. Finally, study 4 demonstrates that a possible mechanism underlying the effect is an enhanced sense of entitlement among competition winners.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: Winners love winning and losers love money.
NCBI ROFL: Which is better: sexy ladies or money?
Those “cool” kids who picked on you in middle school? Yeah, they’re probably losers as adults.


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