Comment Pieces

Do cheats like to enter the government service?

Posted on November 22, 2013

The truth is out. Scientists have shown that students who cheat on a simple task in a laboratory setting are more likely to state a preference for entering public service. Importantly, the report states cheating on this task is predictive of corrupt behavior by real government workers, implying that this measure captures a meaningful propensity towards corruption.

One can love these surveys or hate them, but one just cannot ignore them. The results are part of a large scale study by Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania conducted among 662 students from seven large universities in Bangalore.

Titled 'Dishonesty and Selection into Public Service' the report is causing quite a furore.

The report states that students who wanted to enter public service were also less likely to demonstrate behaviour intended to benefit other people or society as a whole.

The author of the paper, Rema Hanna from Harvard University, conducted three separate tests to reach these conclusions.

The abstract of the report also says that the screening process that chooses the highest ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption among the applicant pool.  They also emphasize that screening characteristics other than ability may be useful in reducing corruption, but caution that more explicit measures may offer little predictive power.

One may not entirely agree with the report, as 'cheating' is universal, and just because someone likely to cheat is angling for a government job, we cannot assume that it is the 'cheats' who land up on these jobs.

There is another Harvard report, which puts things in perspective. Even Ivy Leaguers are not immune to cheating. The Harvard Crimson reports that among 1,300 incoming students, 10 percent admit to having cheated on a test, and 42 percent admit cheating on a homework assignment.

So there are reports and reports and it is for the citizen to get to the truth.