Academic honesty and societal transformation.
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One of the particular challenges in creating a united South Africa is the continued discrimination levelled along racial, political and gender lines. An important aspect of this discrimination is the mental attitude present when assigning in or out group status to other individuals. Often, these implicit attitudes affect changes without even the conscious acknowledgment of their holder. Thus, the sense of identity an individual holds can play a significant role in their interactions with others. Using the paradigm of behavioural economics, this project sought to examine differences in the cheating behaviour of students based on their sense of identity, and the moral obligations they might owe an in and out group member. To this end, approximately 200 students were tested by either a black, or white, experimenter. The rates and severity of cheating amongst the participants was recorded, and compared in the case of each. Furthermore, differences in a number of other identity-forming factors were considered, including Age, Sex, Religion, Language Group and Qualification Sought. Although this study failed to reject the null hypothesis, numerous differences along racial, and other lines, were detected. The data’s greatest importance lies in the overall pattern of cheating observed, which indicates a significant difference between hypothesised identity formation and honesty in previous studies using this paradigm. Participants also proved insensitive to more pronounced security measures. The study has raised numerous interesting questions which clearly show the potential value of, and need for, further research on the topic of identity and honesty.
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