Could being a winner put you on the slippery slope to becoming a cheater? A new study out of Israel suggests it can. Researchers found a correlation between winning a competition and subsequently feeling entitled to win another—and study participants were willing to cheat in order to do so, Phys.org reports. "When success is measured by social comparison, as is the case when winning a competition, dishonesty increases,” researcher Amos Schurr says in a press release. When success is not based on beating someone else—such as reaching a personal exercise goal—"dishonesty decreases," he adds. If the researchers are correct, it could mean that one way to curb corruption and cheating is for governments, businesses, and other organizations to focus less on "social comparisons" and more on "fixed goals," notes Scientific American.
In the study, researchers paired up 86 college students and had them compete against one another in a game that required estimating the number of objects on a computer screen. The "winners" were actually chosen at random, and they received a pair of earbuds. Next, the students played a dice game in which one rolled the dice and the other observed. Only the student rolling the dice, however, could see the result, which dictated how many shekels (worth about a quarter apiece) each student got. Students who had won the previous estimation game were more likely to lie and claim more shekels than they had coming to them, say the researchers. The takeaway: "Winning a competition engenders subsequent unrelated unethical behavior," says the study abstract in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (How's this for cheating: A pro cyclist had a hidden motor in her bike.)