The Internet has made opportunities to cheat on essay-style examinations ubiquitous by simply searching Google for terms like “buy an essay” or “free term paper.” The ease of cheating has complicated schools’ efforts to ensure academic honesty but now, researchers are using data gathered by Google to better understand why students in some areas cheat more frequently than their classmates in other areas. Lukas Neville, from Queen’s University in Ontario, has published a study in the journal Psychological Science which suggests that if students do not trust each other, they will be more likely to cheat.
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Professor Lukas compared data taken from search engines with data on how trusting people are in each US state and an official measure of income inequality in each state. “His comparison revealed that states with low levels of generalised trust and a big gap between the rich and the poor were more likely to be the source of ”cheat searches” than states with a smaller gap.” When students do not believe they can trust other students around them, they may feel the need to cheat in order to keep up with their (supposedly) unscrupulous classmates.