Want to catch a cheater? Wait until the last hand, the last semester, or the last week on the job. That's according to new research that shows people are most likely to be dishonest for personal gain the closer they are to the end of something, Scientific American reports. Three researchers gave more than 2,500 people more than 25,000 opportunities to cheat and found the odds of cheating were nearly three times higher "at the end of a series," the researchers write. According to Emirates 24/7, participants were most likely to cheat when they knew it was their last chance to do so. “The data also suggests that people cheat at the end because they want to avoid feeling regret about passing up a final chance for personal gain,” researcher Daniel Effron says.
In one experiment, subjects who were recruited online were told to flip a coin and attempt to influence it, with their minds, to land on "heads." Every time a participant reported the coin landing on one side or the other (researchers switched it up), they were given a cash prize, and there was no way for researchers to verify they were telling the truth. In early flips, self-reported "winning flips" hovered around the expected 50%, but they shot up on the final flips. In a second experiment, people were hired to grade essays and were paid based on how long they claimed they spent on each. A secret timer found participants were most likely to lie about how long it took them to grade the final essay. The researchers note that the study can help organizations looking out for unethical behavior know when to deploy their limited resources. (Meanwhile, another recent study shows who's more likely to cheat in a relationship.)