Why Do We Cheat?

March 28, 2014

By Medical Discovery News


Even a child can explain why cheating is wrong. Students are well-warned about the consequences that ensue, and adults know the legal implications. Yet cases of cheating continue to emerge in classrooms, boardrooms, and newsrooms. People cheat on tests, for sports, and in elections. Why? Microbiologists Ferric C. Fang and Arturo Casadevall attempted to answer this question by exploring the causes of cheating and why people deceive to get ahead.

Cheating is not unique to any area of society. Seventy-five percent of university students surveyed had cheated, one-third of scientists surveyed admitted to irregularities in their research practices, and an estimated 1.6 million Americans cheat on their taxes. Cheating isn’t even exclusive to humans – even single-celled organisms can “steal” products made by others.

The size of a particular part of the brain called the neocortex is directly related to an animal’s intelligence. It is also responsible for conscious thought and language. Additionally, the size of the neocortex is predictive of the degree that animals engage in deception. The more intelligent the animal, the more it exhibits deceptive behavior.

When it comes to motivation, dread seems to be more powerful that reward, making it a strong impetus for cheating. The fear of losing something, such as money, status, or even a game, is a well-defined motivator. Additionally, observing others cheat increases this behavior. Cheating can be contagious; the more that people observe this behavior, the more often it occurs. It is also enhanced when circumstances make it easy for people to engage in cheating. Ultimately, it is the real or perceived benefits from cheating that can motivate people. 

There is some research that indicates that the more creative a person is, the more likely they are to cheat. This may stem from the ability of creative people to be better at self-deception and the ability to rationalize the behavior. 

There are many deleterious effects of cheating. It wastes resources that could have been used more productively. It can inhibit the progress of others trying to repeat or build upon fraudulent work. It is essentially stealing from others. 

Research shows that harsh penalties do not reduce instances of cheating. The answer to controlling this behavior is through educating people of the consequences and reinforcing personal barriers, such as morality, ethics, and conscience, that emphasize the cost of cheating and its damaging effects. Controlling cheating early helps prevent spreading of this serious behavior. 

While it’s impossible to prevent every instance of cheating, such research helps to understand the basis for the behavior, which in turn can allow society to change the way they deal with such infractions. Hopefully, knowledge of why we cheat will allow us to limit our inclination toward such weaknesses and ultimately its toll on all of us.

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Motivate Me

By Medical Discovery News

Oct. 27, 2012

The real challenge for all of us is to get to the gym

Anyone with a TV has seen them – the skinny, smiling men and women who claim to have lost weight without breaking a sweat thanks to diet pills. But most diet pills carry health risks like increased blood pressure and heart rate, insomnia, and stomach cramps. Some carry more risks than others, such as Orlistat, which was taken off the market after people developed liver failure.

Yet even that didn’t dash the hopes of dieters searching for a magic pill, which could be pinned on a completely new approach – a hormone that boosts a person’s desire to exercise. Swiss scientists found that when a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) was elevated in the brains of mice, they were more active.

EPO is the same performance-enhancing hormone banned by various sporting events and leagues including the Olympics and the Tour de France. During the 1998 Tour race, personnel from several teams were caught red-handed with thousands of doses of EPO and other banned substances.

Athletes are tempted to use EPO because it has the ability to increase red blood cells in the bloodstream, which translates to more oxygen circulating throughout the body and consequently better physical performance. The hormone exists naturally, produced by cells in the kidney that can sense when oxygen levels start to dip.

EPO travels in the bloodstream and into bone marrow where it binds with receptors to stimulate red blood cell (erythrocyte) production. Medically, EPO is used to treat certain forms of anemia. Since EPO accelerates erythrocyte production, it increases the blood’s capacity for carrying oxygen.

Even though the body makes EPO, using more of it comes with risks. In the past 15 years, about 18 cyclists have died suddenly in their sleep from using EPO. When injected repeatedly in small doses, EPO stimulates the release of more red blood cells. In some cases, too many red blood cells are produced, which can thicken the blood, clog capillaries, and lead to a stroke or heart attack. Athletes face a greater risk since they tend to become dehydrated, further thickening the blood.

However, researchers at the University of Zurich found that when given in acute high doses (500 – 2,000 times more than what athletes use), EPO crossed the blood-brain barrier and helped mice run better. The mice had not produced more red blood cells nor increased their cardiovascular capacity. So EPO acted as a brain hormone that motivated the mice to exercise more, without changing their physiology.

Beyond helping many Americans who are obese, EPO may quicken recovery for people who have been bedridden and need to rebuild muscle mass. This treatment approach has not yet been tried on humans, so it will take time for researchers to determine its effects and efficacy.

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