Watch out for those narcissistic students. It turns out that their sins go beyond monopolizing class discussions or blathering on endlessly about themselves during office hours. They also cheat more. Or at least that is the finding of a recent study led by Amy Brunell, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Newark.
This is intuitive when you think about it. But Amy Brunell seems to be the first person who made the link explicitly in a research study. As Brunell explains in ScienceDaily:
"Narcissists really want to be admired by others, and you look good in college if you're getting good grades. . . . "They also tend to feel less guilt, so they don't mind cheating their way to the top. . . . Narcissists feel the need to maintain a positive self-image and they will sometimes set aside ethical concerns to get what they want."
Brunell's sample size was small, just 199 students. The methodology was straight forward. She asked students to answer question aimed at measuring their level of narcissism and then asked questions to gauge their attitudes toward cheating.
Narcissism involves a number of traits and, interestingly, the part of narcissism most associated with cheating was exhibitionism and desire for attention. Meanwhile another trait, the belief in one's specialness, was not a key factor according to Amy Brunell.
"You would think that the belief that you are a special person and that you can do what you want would be associated with cheating," Brunell said. "But instead, we're finding that it is the desire to show off that really seems to drive cheating."
One other interesting thing here is that Amy Brunell makes the link between narcissists cheating in school and later ethical problems.
These results correspond well with studies that have looked at narcissism in the workplace, Brunell said.
"It seems likely that the same people causing problems in the workplace and engaging in white collar crime are the ones who were cheating in the classroom," she said.
Beyond Amy Brunell, scholars involved in the study were Sara Staats and Julie Hupp, who colleagues of Brunell in psychology at Ohio State at Newark,and Jamie Barden of Howard University.