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  • Raghav Sand

Why People Cheat?

Cheating is choice, not a mistake; and the temptation is everywhere. When someone acts dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, they are sowing the seed for personal and social disharmony. Over the centuries, the act of deception has taken many shapes and forms, but the core has always remained intact. The fraud triangle is a framework commonly used in auditing to explain the reason behind an individual’s decision to commit fraud. It outlines three components that contribute to increasing the risk of fraud: (1) opportunity, (2) incentive, and (3) rationalization.

The tendency to cheat is influenced heavily by the environment, says Lisa Shu, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School (L.B.S.). “People are put into tempting environments and often think that they won’t be influenced. In fact, evidence shows that people are very susceptible to temptation and overconfident in their ability to maintain high moral standards.”

Cheaters are Everywhere

A look at the headlines on any given day will reveal the latest high-profile scandal. Elite athletes get involved in match-fixing or get caught using performance enhancing drugs, and celebrities cheat on their partners. Politicians lie to get votes, and business leaders participate in financial scandals.

Obviously, you don’t have to be among the rich and famous to cheat. There are always opportunities to cheat in business and in life. And for some, cheating feels like the best way to get ahead. Honesty is, in fact, primarily a moral choice. Businesspeople do tell themselves that, in the long run, they will do well by doing good. But there is little factual or logical basis for this conviction. Without values, without a basic preference for right over wrong, trust based on such self-delusion would crumble in the face of temptation.

Role of Attitude and Character

Most cheaters are arrogant, while rest of them are ignorant. Anyone who has committed fraud without knowledge may be let-off with a warning. In general, the law doesn’t distinguish between the two varieties. Someone who commits fraud knowingly, believes they can bend the rules or take advantage of a loophole in the system. In their pursuit of power and prosperity, cheaters disregard the well-being of innocent and law-abiding people. Remember, karma is a natural law. It is the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates their own destiny by thoughts, words, and deeds.

After closely observing some cheaters from close quarters, I have noticed a pattern. All compulsive cheaters are knowledgeable folks. They have devoted vast resources to attain theoretical and practical know-how. As and when a person realises they have attained expertise in their field of work, they are confronted with a life-altering dilemma. To cheat, or not to cheat, that is the question. Those who choose to cheat, must give up all hope for attaining peace of mind. For the remainder of their lives, cheaters survive on a false sense of pride. And after all this loss of morals and ethics, these people have the audacity to proclaim that contemporary life has degraded beyond repair.

Cheaters and Criminals in Politics

“Wealthy, self-financing candidates are not only attractive to political parties but they are also likely to be more electorally competitive. Contesting elections is an expensive proposition in most parts of the world, a candidate’s wealth is a good proxy for his or her electoral vitality,” says Dr Vaishnav, who is senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Political parties also nominate candidates with criminal backgrounds to stand for election because, simply put, they win.

Does Punishing Cheaters Stop Future Offenders?

The way wrongdoers are revealed comes with a bundle of new information. “Firstly, people don’t always know about the ways in which they could cheat until someone is caught. Catching a cheater reveals to others a new way of cheating. Secondly, people discover how long cheats have gone without being caught. Lastly, they find out how easy it is to prove a cheat is guilty and what their punishment is.” These levers – how they’ve cheated and for how long – can make some people cheat more and some less, says Dr Cohen-Mohliver, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at L.B.S.

There are many reasons why good people end up dishonest. But there are also many reasons why successful cheaters appear to be very good people. They’re just suspected less often.

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