Explanation of the Article and its Findings

Explanation of the Article and its Findings

Nagin, Daniel S., and Greg Pogarsky. (2003). An Experimental Investigation of Deterrence: Cheating, Self-Serving Bias, and Impulsivity. Criminology 41: 167- 193.


The article provides details of a randomized study that was done by Nagin Daniel and Greg Pogarsky in 2003 to determine various elements of individual and situational difference theories of crime. In this experiment, participants were required to complete a survey that enabled them to earn extra money if they managed to cheat in the examination. The result of the study was consistent with most extant deterrence research studies and indicated that cheating prevalence is lower if more certain detection is put in place rather than when more severe penalty for cheating is used. Lastly, the research findings indicate that participants with strong present-orientation or those prone to self-serving were more likely to cheat.

The hypothesis

The research study tested the null hypothesis which states that the rate of cheating is high among people who are prone to self-serving bias and those with stronger present-orientation as well as when severe penalty is used. This was tested against the alternative hypothesis which states that the rate of cheating is lower among people less prone to self-serving bias and those with little present-orientation as well as when severe detection is used.

Data Source

The source of data used in the research study was survey; the two researchers collected primary data from a sample of 256 undergraduate students. The data was collected using questionnaires; the respondents were requested to participate in the survey by answering items in the questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed to make the participants occupied throughout the 45 minutes of the experiment. The study was conducted in one of the largest public universities in the southwestern United States; the study only considered the undergraduate student population in the university.

Was the hypothesis supported?

The study design and the data source perfectly supported the research hypothesis. First, the research targeted a population of students who are more likely to be inclined towards cheating if there are attached incentives such as personal financial gains. Secondly, the research tool, the questionnaire, was designed effectively to support the hypothesis. The questionnaire was structured to provide incentives for cheating because it occupied the respondents throughout the session, provided questions that are difficult to answer, and enticed the respondents to answer questions correctly for financial gain. The questionnaire also provided questions that measured the respondent’s self-serving bias, as well as impulsivity which were all part of the research hypothesis.

Next step in testing the theory

Because the result of the research study was consistent with other extant deterrence research studies, the next step in this theory may borrow a leaf from previous researches. Alternatively, changing the sample set or population may also be ideal for testing this theory. For instance, the next step would be, to organize for a similar survey but not in a school set-up, preferably the sample set should be a group of adults such as doctors, and nurses among others. Increasing the sample size from 256 to preferably 400 would also help improve the result of this research study.

Difficult part of the article

The only part of the article that was apparently difficult to understand is dealing with the relationship between cheating and demographic variables such as gender, age, and income level. The two researchers established that the individual’s responsiveness towards cheating as well as self-serving bias and impulsivity is influenced by these demographic factors. What makes it more difficult to comprehend is that even the literature review did not discuss any possibility of search a relationship. If there is a relationship between cheating and demographic variables, then a different model should be used that specify and considers the nature of the relationship.