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Why humans just can't stop cheating.


IS THIS country in danger of turning into Cheat Britain? More and more of us - apparently - are resorting to underhand tactics to beat rivals in sport, school and society.

On Saturday Chelsea's Didier Drogba swelled the ranks of selfconfessed swindlers when he admitting to diving.

Speaking after the team's 2-0 win over Manchester City, during which he controversially scored after handling the ball, the striker said: "Sometimes I dive, sometimes I slip up. In football you can't stay up every time."

Foul play is on the rise - on and off the pitch. A report out today shows students now use mobile phones to con their way to exam success.

More than 4,500 candidates were caught out last summer - a rise of over a quarter on 2004. Of these, around 1,100 students were caught smuggling mobiles into exam rooms.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's annual report also revealed 1,414 candidates copied another student's work in their exams or coursework.

Oxford University is having to address the problem after admitting that students lifting essays off the internet has become a serious problem.

More generally, the British Television Licensing Authority catches 1,200 people using a TV without a licence every day. In London, fare dodgers on the buses cost companies around pounds 43million per year.

The impulse to cheat may be biological. And psychologist Susan Quilliam says men are more likely to use underhand means to get ahead because for generations they have been raised to be the best.

She explains: "While we live in more equal times, since prehistoric days men have been conditioned to win while women have been brought up to please.

"Biologically women are programmed to be more aware of others and sympathise and empathise with them."

Cheating, she says, is integral to human nature but the problem is getting worse due to the pressures of modern society.

She says: "In the quest to get ahead, fairness, justice and friendliness just go out of the window. Being the best is the main driving force and men in particular will not lose any sleep over who they trample over to win, whether it's at sport, business or even in their social lives.

"For them, achievement is everything and morals fall by the wayside." And it's not just humans who are at it. In nature, there are numerous examples of animals that use underhand tactics to get ahead.

But animal behaviour experts say the more developed a species' brain, the more likely they are to cheat. So humans are the worst offenders

For the experts there are three major influences in how cheats are created: upbringing, pressure to please peers and immaturity.

Dr Quilliam continues: "If as a child you have had to survive on your wits, you learn very quickly how to use or bend the system to make sure you stay ahead of the pack.

"If you think the world is out to get you, then you make sure that you get in first and if that means flexing the rules then that's what you do.

"Sometimes, those who cheat do so to please others - exam cheats are often trying to make their parents happy.

"Then there are cheats who have never really grown-up.

"They believe that they are the most important person in the universe and just want the focus to be on them.

"These attentionseekers stay in the limelight with underhand tactics like stealing other people's ideas, fobbing failure off on to others while claiming glory for themselves.

"The more self-centred you are, the more likely you are to cheat. Achieving is the most important part of your life and these people just will not give up, even if cheating is not necessary in a particular situation.

"They will cheat even if they are winning."

Australian psychologist Bill von Hippel, of the University of New South Wales, believes there are two kinds of cheats.

Brazen cheats are deliberate, writing notes on their hand before an exam for example. Rational cheats may find a copy of the answers left in the test paper and convince themselves they couldn't help but see the answers.

Dr Von Hippel found 10 per cent of university students were brazen cheats but up to 40 per cent rationalised their actions.

In other words, half of us are happy to cheat - although some of us will only do it if we can kid ourselves we're not.

He added: "It's a wonderful way to get ahead, particularly if you don't have the ability to gain something any other way."

To get ahead, fairness, justice and friendship all go out of the window


FINGERED: Drogba on Saturday
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 27, 2006
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