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W. Paul Williamson and Aresh Assadi


It is widely assumed that religion is responsible for dictating and guiding moral behavior. This study investigated that claim and its relationship to monetary incentive, self-esteem, and gender within the context of academic dishonesty. A sample of 65 undergraduate students (32 men; 33 women) were assessed using a revision of Allport's Religious Orientation Scale (Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989) and then monitored for cheating on a computerized version of the Graduate Records Exam under different experimental conditions. Self-esteem (high, average, low) and monetary incentive ($5, nothing) were manipulated, and gender was selected to measure their effect on cheating behavior. Results of this study found that: (1) participants' religious orientation was not related to their tendency to cheat in any way; (2) participants cheated significantly more when receiving monetary incentive for their performance than when they did not; (3) participants with induced low self-esteem cheated significantly more than those with induced high self-esteem; and (4) men cheated more than women at a level that bordered on significance (p < .06). Academic performance (GPA) was not found related to academic cheating. Findings are discussed in the context of existing literature.