Why Do Students Cheat in Exams? | The Concept of Predictable Irrationality

Why We Cheat? | The Concept of Predictable Irrationality

Yesterday one of my students, who is now in high school, came to me, sharing the good news about his achievement in a school exam. As the conversation proceeds, he asks me, ‘Sir, why do we cheat? What difference does it make if a person succeeds by cheating and a person who did not cheat? This question is not new to me as the pupils usually ask when they are caught up doing cheating in exams or observe any cheating in the classroom. However, this question reminds me of a year old TEDx video of Dan Ariely, who shared his hospital experience when he was severely burnt and talked about the concept of ‘Predictable Irrationality’.

What is Predictable Irrationality? It means a person is very well aware of their decision(s) and its repercussions; still, the person wants to make that decision. Cheating is one of the kinds of decisions that students and adults make when they want to achieve something or when things are getting ‘wrong’. One may ask, what encourages us to cheat? According to Dan Ariely, it is all about duration and intensity, i.e. how much time we have to complete any given task or target and at what strength we are working.

Similarly, why do we get caught cheating? Again, it’s based on the cheating approach and the probability of getting seen. However, what encourages us to cheat? The most influential factors behind that decision are the social dynamics and the assumption we made during exams. That ‘ I am doing right, or this action is right according to me’ because ‘everybody is doing the same why would I be the part of this ‘Social Decision Making Process’.

The Video is 18 minutes long; however, the part between 00:00:00 to 00:13:00 is more related to this topic.

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