Competition Increases Cheating, Not Performance

By increasing the competitiveness of a task–by rewarding top performers, for example–performance levels do not improve and instead the rate of cheating increases among the worst performers.

That’s what researchers discovered when they used a maze-based computer task to determine how increasing competitive pressure influences cheating and performance levels.

Half the students were paid according to how many mazes they completed whereas the half in the ‘highly competitive’ condition were only paid per maze if they were the top performer in their group of six students. […]

‘It turns out that individuals who are less able to fulfill the assigned task do not only have a higher probability to cheat, they also cheat in more different ways,’ the researchers said. ‘It appears that poor performers either feel entitled to cheat in a system that does not give them any legitimate opportunities to succeed, or they engage in “face saving” activity to avoid embarrassment for their poor performance.”

I’m not quite sure of the implications in an academic or professional setting, but I presume they are not great!

via @TimHarford