Psychologists at the University of British Columbia found that students who cheated in high school and college were likely to meet the criteria for psychopathic personality — the type that tends toward a range of bad behaviors, like alcohol and drug abuse, bullying and reckless driving. It’s the same impulsive, callous and antisocial personality that characterizes criminal psychopaths, though, to be fair, student cheaters scored a lot lower on psychopathy questionnaires than actual criminal offenders.
The researchers found that academic cheaters also scored high in two other personality traits: narcissism (people who suffer from grandiosity, self-centeredness and an outsized sense of entitlement) and Machiavellianism (cynical, amoral types who make it a habit to manipulate others). But of the three disordered personalities — together known colorfully as the Dark Triad — psychopathy was the only trait significantly associated with student cheating.
The new paper, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, describes the results of a series of three studies involving nearly 600 college students.
The U. of British Columbia study is available from the APA Web site here (PDF).