Blame your hormones for your cheating, unethical behaviour

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Published: July 29, 2015 10:25:07 AM

If you can't resist taking a peek into others' papers in exams, or nicking things from someone's house, it may be your hormones fault, claims a new study.

If you can’t resist taking a peek into others’ papers in exams, or nicking things from someone’s house, it may be your hormones fault, claims a new study.

University of Texas at Austin and Harvard researchers looked at the reproductive hormone testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol, and found that the endocrine system played a dual role in unethical acts, meaning that hormones play an important role in encouraging and reinforcing cheating.

First, elevated hormone levels predict likelihood of cheating. And then, a change of hormone levels during the act reinforces the behavior.

Robert Josephs of the University of Austin said that 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.

Josephs said that elevated testosterone decreases the fear of punishment while increasing sensitivity to reward, adding that the elevated cortisol was linked to an uncomfortable state of chronic stress that could be extremely debilitating.

He said that testosterone furnished the courage to cheat, and elevated cortisol provided a reason to cheat.

In addition, 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 story is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

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