Nov 29, 2006

Report on Lying and Cheating By Youth and Adolescents

I thought I’d post some survey results, of 36,000 students, published by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, on lying and cheating by American youth and adolescents (the actual data can be found here).

I think these results are so interesting because they highlight what most social psychologists know - the values and beliefs that people express actually have little bearing on people’s behavior.

Percentage of students who believe that trust and honesty are essential:

  • 98.0 (Middle School)
  • 97.7 (High School)
But, how do these same students actually behave?

Percentage of students who lied to a parent in the last year about something significant:
  • 77.4 (Middle School)
  • 81.2 (High School)
Percentage of students who lied to a teacher in the last year about something significant:
  • 52.6 (Middle School)
  • 62.0 (High School)
Percentage of students who copied a document off the internet and passed it in as an assignment:
  • 23.8 (Middle School)
  • 32.9 (High School)
Percentage of students who cheated on a test in the last year:
  • 37.7 (Middle School)
  • 60.2 (High School)
Percentage of students who stole from a parent or relative in the last year:
  • 22.0 (Middle School)
  • 23.0 (High School)
Unfortunately, I believe that these results probably underestimate the amount of actual lying and cheating that goes on because people have a tendency to under report negative behavior.

And even without the problem of underreporting, the results tend to reinforce the idea that it’s usually wise to ignore what people say and it’s more informative to watch what they do.

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