Why Do Cheaters Cheat?

We’ve all dealt with cheaters at various stages of gameplay — on the playground, at the kitchen table board game, on Xbox Live.  Their ways seem inscrutable. Why would you deliberately defraud someone if you’re ostensibly playing the same game?  The New York Times this past weekend approached the nature of cheating from a psycho-social angle today and delivers some scintillating rationale, chiefly that cheating may arrive from a feeling of injustice:

Yet perhaps the most powerful urge to cheat stems from a deep sense of unfairness, psychologists say. As people first begin to compete and compare themselves with others, as early as middle school, they also begin to learn of others’ hidden advantages. Private tutors. Family money. Alumni connections. A regular golf game with the boss. Against a competitor with such advantages, taking credit for other people’s work at the office is not only easier, it can seem only fair.

Once the cheating starts, it’s natural to impute it to others. “When it comes to negative characteristics, we tend to overestimate how much others have in common with us,” said David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University.

That is to say: A corner cutter often begins to think everyone else is cheating after he has started cheating, not before.