Everyone that believes that the average public servant is corrupt or out to make an easy living at the expense of taxpayers just got some vindication.
College students in India who cheated during an experiment were more likely to want to get a government job after graduating.
Additionally, cheating in the experiment was predictive of actual corruption from government workers, showing that this sort of dishonesty could be linked to later corruption, according to a new working paper from Rema Hanna of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Shing-Yi Wang of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
The initial task was pretty simple. Participants were asked to roll a single die and self report the number they rolled. The higher the number, the more money they received from the researchers.
Each person rolled the die 42 times. The degree of cheating was measured by how much the reported numbers varied from the theoretical normal distribution, which describes how an average set of 42 rolls with unbiased dice would turn out.
Students that likely cheated, since they reported numbers significantly above the median, were 6.3% more likely to want a government job.
That tendency held true regardless of whether these were low or high ability students based on tests of memory and cognitive ability. Even separating out the highest ability students didn’t change the propensity for cheating. That’s important because it means that the sorts of aptitude and ability tests many countries use as a barrier to government service are only going to be so effective.
In a separate sample of government nurses, those who scored themselves above the sample median (likely cheaters) were 7.1% more likely to be fraudulently absent from their jobs, meaning that they collected paychecks for days that they had not actually worked.
Below is the test that was given to students to determine their propensity for cheating. It’s particularly effective because it’s impossible to identify for certain if someone is a cheater, unless they claim to have rolled 42 sixes in a row, since researchers weren’t watching or recording the actual rolls:
Find the full paper here.
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