Monday, May 18, 2015

Cheaters Never Win...or Do they?

Why do people cheat? Quite simply, the reward for cheating typically outweighs the negative consequence. Cheating is an epidemic in today's society where we strive for the path of least resistance and effort in every aspect of our lives. Allow me to indulge you in a little educational psychology for a minute (something I studied and use in my own classroom as an educator). One of the tenants of behavioral psychological is the learning theory of B.F. Skinner. In a nutshell, the basic theory is that people learn by imitation and then subsequent reinforcement. When we are children we copy what we see: other children and adults around us. When we are given praise and acknowledgement after a particular behavior we tend to keep doing the behavior to seek the reward. Of course there are other factors that play a role in behavior: environment, self-efficacy and a host of other learning theories. But I agree with Skinner that imitation and reinforcement are the main keys to learning (and changing behavior). As a teacher I am very aware of when I offer praise to my students. In fact, I tend to withhold praise until I see exactly the kind of behavior I want. Then I reward that behavior. And you know what? Students tend to keep doing whatever I reward. It is the idea of a "reward" that is the primary motivation for a given behavior. So again, why do people cheat? It's because they see other people cheat (ie, imitation), and they are rewarded when they do. Tom Brady cheated and he won a Super bowl. The Saints cheated with the Bountygate scandal, and they won a Super bowl. Did both teams also face a punishment? Yes, but they still got the reward in the end. more

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