Situation and Subsequent Behavior
Students are required to portray the highest degree of honesty in a test as part of their moral obligation. However, some of them fail to meet this expectation by considering cheating in exams. Dishonesty translates to breach or violation of social values, beliefs, attitudes, and/or morals (Leffel, 2008, p.183). In a hypothetical case, John is a student at Stuyvesant high school. His academic profile reflects strong grades in all subjects, including those subjects that his friends consider difficult such as physics. New York students are required to sit for regent tests. John was not an exception. With this test being an important exam based on his past performance, his parents were confident that he would emerge with good grades in the trial. As he walked into the silent exam room, no one suspected that he was about to engage in any form of immoral exam misconduct such as cheating.
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John arrived in the exam room before other students. He chose a strategic position where he thought the exam invigilator would not have a glimpse of his intention. Armed with a Smartphone, he was prepared to keep constant communication with his friends by texting them the answers he would obtain from the internet. In particular, John was a good student in physics. He clearly knew that he would excel in this test.
By sending answers to other students outside his school, he was sure he would also get help from them in the subjects that they performed better. Regent exams are administered for three hours. However, students are allowed to break for two hours if they have finished. John’s plan was to use less than two hours in the test with a plan to utilize the rest of the time texting his friends. This plan worked without the slightest suspicion.
Attribution theory may be used to analyze John’s situation that involved a breach of the moral obligation to portray the utmost honesty in the regent exam.
Although he did not receive answers to the exam from his friends, sending replies translates to a breach of the moral requirement in the administration of tests. Attribution theory provides an explanation of why people portray a specific behavior (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2003, p. 13). According to Heider, who is the first psychologist to propose the theory, attribution theory relates people’s behavior to personality, character, and/or attitude (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2003, p. 25).
People may also behave in specific ways because of particular issues related to their situation (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2003, p. 45). For John’s case, the chief driver of the intention to cheat is not specific. However, his parents have established particular anticipation for John’s performance in school. To keep them pleased, it is desirable for him to seek all possible alternatives that will ensure that he will never breach this anticipation in the quest to save his parents satisfied and/or keep the pride they have in him both presently and in the future.
Choosing a strategic position where the exam invigilator would not detect the foul play that he was about to engage implied that he was aware that cheating in a test was morally wrong. Nevertheless, he had a desire to develop a survival instinct.
Although he could have excelled in the regent exam without even communicating with his friends, he had the perception that he would not perform well in the future in some subjects in which he was not superior. Thus, it was necessary to please his friends so that they could also help him cheat in those subjects. This way, he could save himself from embarrassment arising from his parents for future failure to maintain the established standards and anticipations.
Aronson, E., Wilson, D., & Akert, R. (2003). Social Psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Leffel, G. (2008). Who cares? Generativity and the moral emotions, Part 2: A social intuitionist model of moral motivation. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 36(3), 182-201.