Collaborating to cheat: A game theoretic exploration of academic dishonesty in teams

Kristie Briggs, John P. Workman, Anne S. York

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Despite the documented increase in individual student cheating and the increasing use of team assignments in business schools, only a handful of recent empirical studies in the management literature have addressed the decision to cheat collaboratively. To date, no peer-reviewed, theoretically rigorous model of such behavior exists. Our work here presents a game theoretical model of team cheating based on rational choice, in which students choose a path with benefits or payouts typical of most university settings, given their assessment of the probability that other team members will cheat. Additionally, we show how incentives to cheat can be altered to make cheating a more or less rationally attractive choice depending on factors such as the psychological safety felt by team members, individual expectations that other team members will cheat, possible fear of group exclusion, the relationship between leader dominance and group member agreeableness, and students' expectations that harsh penalties will be applied. We then propose a general, utility-based model for considering "subjectively" rational choices in which students may choose not to collude in cheating despite economic payouts which would encourage such behavior. We conclude with implications for academia, applications to the workplace, and directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-17
Number of pages14
JournalAcademy of Management Learning and Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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