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The Journal of Psychology

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Lying and Cheating: Fraudulent Excuse Making,
Cheating, and Plagiarism
Miguel Roig & Marissa Caso
To cite this article: Miguel Roig & Marissa Caso (2005) Lying and Cheating: Fraudulent Excuse
Making, Cheating, and Plagiarism, The Journal of Psychology, 139:6, 485-494, DOI: 10.3200/
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Published online: 07 Aug 2010.

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Date: 12 April 2016, At: 07:44

2001). less attention has been focused on other known forms of dishonesty. Department of Psychology.. 1990. St. Grade point average was negatively correlated with all 3 measures but did not reach statistical significance with the measure of plagiarism. 1999). We thank Susan Krauss-Whitbourne for providing us with a copy of the Questionnaire on Academic Excuses (QAE).27).g. March 2002. 1998). For example. Nuss.g. John’s University. NY. 485–494 Copyright © 2005 Heldref Publications Lying and Cheating: Fraudulent Excuse Making. Cheating. 1988. Undergraduates reported their use of fraudulent excuses. May. MA. This activity was correlated with an independently obtained self-report measure of cheating (r = . Staten Island. although the few studies that have been conducted suggest that it occurs with perhaps the same or even greater frequency than cheating on examinations (e. 2002). 2005. several scholarly books solely devoted to the problem of cheating (e. Cizek. John’s University ABSTRACT. Key words: academic (e-mail). Notre Dame Division of St.38) and plagiarism (r = .. We are also grateful to F. 1987. Kibler. Many in academia now believe that with the advent of computers and the An abridged version of this article was presented as a poster paper at the 73rd meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association. cheating. 485 . John’s College. Address correspondence to Miguel Roig. 1999.Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 The Journal of Psychology. Hale. Noah & Eckstein. Whitley & Keith-Spiegel. in Boston. only in the last few years has research been carried out exclusively on the problem of plagiarism. Although the range of academically dishonest behaviors extends beyond cheating on exams. Richard Ferraro and another anonymous reviewer for their comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this article. 300 Howard Avenue. 1997.g. Paterson. roigm@stjohns.. 72% of the student participants claimed to have used a fraudulent excuse in college at least once. excuse making. plagiarism RESEARCH ON ACADEMIC DISHONESTY covering the past three decades now spans well over 100 published articles (Whitley. and Plagiarism MIGUEL ROIG MARISSA CASO Department of Psychology St. Roig. & Pavela. and several other tomes with chapters on this troublesome subject matter (e. 139(6).

Their results indicated that students who reported using fraudulent excuses scored higher on measures of substance use and other illegal behaviors than those who did not report using such excuses. On the basis of those who reported gender and age.. Krauss-Whitbourne. Blankenship and Whitley (2000) gave students measures of cheating. Other researchers have investigated the relationship between the use of fraudulent excuses and academic procrastination—the act of delaying the beginning or completion of academic tasks. cheating and plagiarism). The use of fraudulent excuses by college students is another type of dishonest behavior that has received limited empirical attention. 2001). We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between self-reported measures of fraudulent excuses and cheating and plagiarism. & Beck. Second. We also predicted higher cheating and plagiarism scores for students who reported using a high frequency of fraudulent excuses. In light of the fact that the use of fraudulent excuses by college students has not been adequately explored. we wished to further explore the extent to which fraudulent excuse making is related to traditional forms of academic dishonesty (i. We surveyed students in various psychology classes for their use of fraudulent excuses and for various forms of cheating and plagiarism.34 years). Keane. 1998. Ferrari. In one study.e. and Halgin (1992) indicated that it also occurs with as high a frequency as other traditional forms of cheating. even though the results of an earlier study by Caron.Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 486 The Journal of Psychology Internet. (1992). 2001. and other forms of behavior deviance. only 211 completed both . Wolfe. “copy and paste” plagiarism has increased dramatically in recent years (Hafner. Method Participants Undergraduates (N = 565) from various sections of general psychology participated in the study. These authors also found that students who tend to use fraudulent excuses do so for the purpose of gaining additional time to complete an assignment. Wilson. 1995). The association between procrastination and the use of fraudulent excuses is noteworthy with respect to our present study because other research results have shown a modest positive relationship between procrastination and traditional forms of cheating and plagiarism (see Roig & DeTommaso. 1998) have reported data indicating that students whose scores indicate procrastination use fraudulent excuses more often than nonprocrastinators. we wanted to determine whether the frequency and type of fraudulent academic excuses have changed since the publication of the study by Caron et al. Ferrari and his colleagues (Ferrari & Beck. fraudulent excuse making. we carried out the present study with two purposes in mind. there were 218 men and 346 women who ranged in age between 17 and 42 years (M = 19. Of the 565 students who participated. First.

For example. students in half of the classes received the APS with the explanation that it was a study on academic practices.) reported that fewer than 25% of their professors required any type of proof for their excuses. the same investigator distributed the QAE to the same students as a study on academic excuses.9% of students in the Ferrari et al. Similarly. Results Students’ responses to the QAE resulted in a pattern of results somewhat comparable to the results reported by Caron et al. This instrument consists of questions regarding students’ use of legitimate and fraudulent excuses and the reasons for using them. The discrepancy between the number of students who initially participated in the study and the number who successfully completed both questionnaires occurred because we were not able to administer the second questionnaire to four large sections of the course. (1992) that men are more likely to use fraudulent excuses. and an alarming 38% of the students (13% in Caron et al.Roig & Caso 487 Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 measures. Procedure We distributed both questionnaires in general psychology classes ranging in size from 8 to 43 students. The APS is a measure of academic dishonesty that consists of 24 items. 72% of the present sample reported using a fraudulent excuse at least once in college. The figure reported by Caron et al. the majority of students in our sample (62% vs. Study participants also received the Academic Practices Survey (APS) developed by Roig and DeTommaso (1995). (1992). To confirm the finding reported by Caron et al. we used the 21-item Questionnaire on Academic Excuses (QAE) developed by Caron et al. 65. This questionnaire can thus yield separate cheating and plagiarism scores as well as an overall academic dishonesty score. The other half of the students received the same procedure but with the questionnaires distributed in the reverse order. As with the previous study. 1993). Approximately 4 weeks later.) indicated that none of their professors required such proof. Instruments To determine the extent of fraudulent excuse making. χ2(4. In an effort to have some control over the possibility of contextual effects (see Council. 16 of which are designed to assess plagiarism practices and 8 that assess traditional forms of cheating. we compared men’s and women’s responses to the first question on the QAE regarding the frequency with which they have used a phony excuse in college. was 67% (see Table 1). (1998) study indicated that their professors accepted their fraudulent excuse. (1992). A significant effect was observed. N = 380) = . 57% in Caron et al.

men’s plagiarism scores (M = 30.008. pp. The numbers in parentheses are the percentages reported by Caron et al.83. (1992) (N = 267) Who Reported Using Fraudulent and Legitimate Excuses Category Fraudulent (college) Men Women Legitimate (college) Men Women Fraudulent (semester) Men Women Legitimate (semester) Men Women 0 1 Frequency 2 3 4 28 (33) 25 30 16 (13) 14 17 53 (65) 45 59 38 (47) 32 40 22 (16) 15 27 28 (29) 27 29 20 (17) 18 21 34 (32) 26 35 18 (17) 19 17 26 (27) 20 29 12 (9) 17 10 16 (15) 24 14 7 (12) 8 7 13 (10) 13 13 5 (6) 7 3 5 (4) 7 4 25 (23) 33 20 17 (20) 26 12 10 (4) 13 8 7 (2) 11 7 Note. SD = 7. cheating scores for men (M = 13.21. 13. SD = 4.80. It is also worth noting that “death of a grandparent” was second lowest in frequency of use as a fraudulent excuse in both our sample and in the Caron et al.855.06. (1992) did not report data for sex differences.95) did not differ significantly from those of women (M = 30.54. These data appear comparable. p = . Caron et al.56).35). though not in . higher percentages of men tended to report using two. 92–93). and four or more fraudulent as well as legitimate excuses.47. All percentages have been rounded off to the nearest whole number.60) were significantly higher than those for women (M = 12. SD = 7. Table 2 shows the frequency of fraudulent as well as legitimate excuses reported by students in each sample. Semester refers to the number of fraudulent and legitimate excuses reported during the past semester. College refers to the number of fraudulent and legitimate excuses reported while in college. p < . (1992) study. However. p = . The discrepancy in degrees of freedom throughout our analyses stems from one respondent who did not answer a significant number of the plagiarism items of the APS. As Table 1 shows. Percentage of Students From the Present Study (N = 380) and From Caron et al. In addition. t(390) = –2. SD = 4. t(389) = –1. except for the categories of “death in the family” as a legitimate excuse and “computer failure” as both a legitimate and a fraudulent excuse. three. Discrepancies in the numbers of participants for the various analyses exist because respondents did not always provide information on variables such as gender and GPA.488 The Journal of Psychology Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 TABLE 1.01. and consistent with the early trend in the academic dishonesty literature (see Cizek. 1999.678.

A chi square comparison of the frequencies of fraudulent excuses for all of the categories listed in Table 2 between our study and Caron et al. Percentages are in parentheses. by Students From the Present Study and From Caron et al. (N = 261) Fraudulent Legitimate 142 52 (37) 90 (63) 99 32 (32) 67 (68) 157 49 (31) 108 (69) 111 32 (29) 79 (71) 96 115 77 53 79 38 (48) 41 (52) 59 28 (47) 31 (53) 26 13 (50) 13 (50) 29 14 (48) 15 (52) 68 28 (41) 40 (59) 12 4 (33) 8 (67) 3 2 (67) 1 (33) 34 17 (50) 17 (50) 91 38 (42) 53 (58) 58 25 (43) 33 (57) 29 13 (45) 16 (55) 29 13 (45) 16 (55) 59 26 (44) 33 (56) 24 9 (38) 15 (63) 5 2 (40) 3 (60) 37 21 (57) 16 (43) 45 55 36 42 33 33 24 33 24 27 6 21 0 4 43 59 Note. (1992) Given excuse Personal illness Men Women Family emergency Men Women Did not understand assignment Men Women Alarm failed/overslept Men Women Left paper in dorm Men Women Out of town Men Women Computer failed Men Women Grandparent death Men Women Best friend death Men Women Other Men Women Present study (N = 380) Fraudulent Legitimate Caron et al. the reader should keep in mind that many of these frequencies are not independent. Number of Excuses. was statistically significant. TABLE 2. χ2(938. Either Legitimate or Fraudulent.04. (1998). p < .01. as some students checked two or more of the categories. N = 565) = 26. However. .Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 Roig & Caso 489 the study reported by Ferrari et al.

fraudulent excuse making.91 GPA SD n . as were fraudulent excuse scores and plagiarism scores (r = . F(4.. as in Caron et al. TABLE 3. p < . The corresponding figure for the Caron et al.25. age.e. n = 210. and four or more times (Table 3). whereas the figure for the study reported by Ferrari et al. p < .69 . cheating and plagiarism scores. (1992) study was 91%. Ferrari et al. (1998) was extrapolated to be approximately 52%.45 3. In the present study. p < . we entered GPA. plagiarism scores.37. For example. Average Grade Point Average (GPA) as a Function of Frequency of Use of Fraudulent Excuses (n = 187) Frequency of fraudulent excuse Never Once Twice Three times Four or more times M 3. whereas the gender of the professor did not seem to be an important variable. we carried out a multiple linear regression analysis to determine the extent to which cheating scores would be predicted by some of these variables.20 3. As Table 4 shows.53 45 53 32 11 46 . (1992).47 . We did find a difference in grade point average (GPA) as a function of the frequency of fraudulent excuses.05) than those who reported using a fraudulent excuse once. p < .56 . 1st year. 182) = 10.16 2. Thus. reported similar percentages. 2nd year) not to be related to the use of fraudulent excuses. and cheating scores were used as the criterion variable.42 . fraudulent excuse scores were correlated with cheating scores (r = .0001.. three times. Newman-Keuls analyses indicated that students who reported not using fraudulent excuses had a GPA that was significantly higher (p < .0001. F(5.326.27. and the gender of the participant were significant predictors of cheating.55 2.Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 490 The Journal of Psychology Eighty percent of those who used fraudulent excuses reported using such excuses in an effort to obtain extra time to either complete an assignment or to study for an exam. An examination of the association between frequency of using a fraudulent excuse. we found students’ academic status (i. twice. 173) = 18.0001). and ages and gender of participants as predictor variables. and GPA revealed statistically significant correlations between various pairs of these variables (see Table 4).0001).45. having a lenient professor (73%) was the most likely condition allowing students to use a fraudulent excuse. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with five levels of frequency of using fraudulent excuses yielded a statistically significant main effect. To further explore these associations and in response to reviewers’ suggestions. The adjusted R2 was . As in Caron et al. fraudulent excuse making. plagiarism scores. n = 211.

161** GPA Excuses Plagiarism Age Gender M SD Cheating Variable 3.301 –1.083 β –.72 –.213** .297 t TABLE 4.54 .35 2.391 3.12 .123 Plagiarism 19.376** –.55 –.69 –. ** p < .152 6.267** .05. Intercorrelations and Standardized Beta Coefficients for the Five Predictor Variables Entered Into the Multiple Regression Model (n = 179) Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 Roig & Caso 491 .371** .875 2.272** .166 B –.34 Age –.234 .000 Excuses 30.*p < .129* GPA 2.80 1.149* –.219** .97 4. 12.626 –.677 .027 .280 1.449** .01.557** –.11 7.

Discussion That the use of fraudulent excuses is related to self-reported measures of cheating and of plagiarism should not be surprising. the three measures constitute major forms of academic dishonesty. M 10.73 13. For example.86 Plagiarism SD 5. Average Cheating and Plagiarism Scores as a Function of Frequency of Use of Fraudulent Excuses Frequency of fraudulent excuse Never Once Twice Three times Four or more times a n = 211.21 14. and for plagiarism scores.66 6. It is worth noting. (1992) and those of Ferrari et al.92 nb 54 58 34 14 50 .84 Cheating SD na M 2. Cheating and plagiarism scores were each subjected to a one-way ANOVA with 5 levels of frequency of using fraudulent excuses (Table 5). relative to men. Caron et al.64 9. F(4. a review of Table 2 shows that women tend to use a greater variety of excuses.20. suggested the establishment of a clear policy statement to the effect that no excuses TABLE 5.20 31. which suggests some degree of independence between these constructs. whether fraudulent or legitimate. 205) = 5.60 3. Newman-Keuls analyses for each of the two main effects indicated that students who reported not using fraudulent excuses had cheating and plagiarism scores that were significantly lower (p < .21 32. Taken together. three times. 206) = 9.48 7. (1992) suggestion that professors need to be cautious in assessing students’ excuses.24 3. p < . F(4.85.15 31.90 4. (1998). p < . that the strength of these associations is modest at best. these findings support the Caron et al. and four or more times.08 15. We urge professors to heed the rest of the recommendations proposed by these authors.0001. Although we confirmed men’s greater tendency to report the use of a fraudulent excuse. however. Both ANOVAs resulted in statistically significant main effects for cheating scores. The overall frequency of using fraudulent excuses reported by students in our sample is somewhat in agreement with the results in Caron et al. our data also indicate some differences in how men and women engage in this behavior.05) than those who reported using a fraudulent excuse once.13 56 58 34 13 50 26.Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 492 The Journal of Psychology We carried out two other analyses.00 30.22 13. twice.74 3. After all.74 5. For example.0002. based on their finding that more than half (57%) of the students reported that fewer than 25% of their professors required proof for an excuse. bn = 210.

Given that respondents in our sample reported an even higher percentage of professors who do not request such proof (79% of students in the study reported by Ferrari et al. Becker. Teaching of Psychology. students’ successful use of fraudulent excuses gives them an undeserved advantage and is unfair to their peers who are honest.. 1993. L. F. Future researchers should investigate the potential personality characteristics of these offenders (e. we suggest that academic dishonesty policy statements in college catalogs and in student handbooks provide additional focus on this type of dishonest behavior. NJ: Erlbaum. A. Council. For example. K. B. We acknowledge. Ethics and Behavior. and those of others. S. impulsiveness. we believe that the current trend toward the establishment of honor codes in academic institutions and the fact that levels of academic dishonesty tend to be lower at such institutions (see McCabe. Becker. Machiavellianism) as well as examine other possible demographic correlates (e. As with other traditional forms of cheating. we feel that establishing the legitimacy of excuses at the classroom (or even at the institutional) level is an area in need of serious consideration by faculty and institutional officials. Their use undermines the principles of academic integrity and should not be tolerated.. Our results. Treviño. 19. (1992). 31–33. and prevent it. REFERENCES Blankenship. S. Current Directions in Psychological Science.. (1999). G. indicate that the use of fraudulent excuses occurs with approximately equal.. 1998).. K. Davis. L.. R. (2000). Our data indicate that too many students continue to use fraudulent excuses successfully and that this problem may have become worse in the years since Caron et al.. P. Relation of general deviance to academic dishonesty. A. techniques. area of study. Caron. In view of this state of affairs. and punishments. frequency than more traditional forms of cheating (e. and in addition to the recommendations offered by Caron et al. (1992) did their research. 1998). . E. N. Jr. the possibility that perhaps professors have evolved course structures that obviate the need for measures to verify the legitimacy of academic excuses. Whitley. (1993). 19. D. detect it. In this context. 16–20.Downloaded by [b-on: Biblioteca do conhecimento online UAC] at 07:44 12 April 2016 Roig & Caso 493 will be accepted unless they are offered with the necessary proof of their validity. 2. M. Context effects in personality research. Davis.g. 1–12. & Halgin. 1992. 10..g.. Cheating on tests. and they are then given an opportunity to make up these exams at a later time. 90–93. Cizek. (1992). however. R. 2002) may represent an effective means of decreasing the use of fraudulent excuses.. one of us (Miguel Roig) allows students to miss up to two exams (out of a total of five exams offered) regardless of the reasons for missing them. if not greater. & Whitley. Krauss-Whitbourne. J.g. Grover.. & McGregor. How to do it. & McGregor. (1992). Teaching of Psychology. Grover. McCabe & Treviño. Academic dishonesty: Prevalence. C. ethnicity). Fraudulent excuse making among college students. & Butterfield. determinants. Mahwah. H. J.

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