Do you find it difficult to resist yourself from peeking into others' papers during an exam? A new study by University of Texas at Austin and Harvard suggests that you could blame your hormones for it. When researchers looked at the reproductive hormone testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol, they found that the endocrine system played a dual role in unethical acts, meaning that hormones play an important role in encouraging and reinforcing cheating.
The research team found that first, elevated hormone levels predict likelihood of cheating. And then, a change in the hormone levels during the act reinforces the behavior.
Robert Josephs of the University of Austin said, "Recently a research had revealed just how powerful and pervasive the influence of the endocrine system is on human behavior. Results showed that individuals with elevated levels of testosterone and cortisol were more likely to overstate the number of correctly solved problems. Elevated testosterone decreases the fear of punishment while increasing sensitivity to reward. The elevated cortisol was linked to an uncomfortable state of chronic stress that could be extremely debilitating. Testosterone furnished the courage to cheat, and elevated cortisol provided a reason to cheat."
In addition, study participants who cheated showed lowered levels of cortisol and reported reductions in emotional distress after the test, as if cheating provided some sort of stress relief.
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.