College Student Cheating and Situational Ethics


How does the context in which deviance takes place affect whether a behavior is defined as deviant? In the reading, the authors describe how college students frame their cheating behavior. While they recognize and acknowledge that cheating is ‘wrong,’ their statements are heavily qualified: “Yes, it is wrong, but…” “I know it’s not OK, but…”

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The authors argue that these statements serve to add context to the behavior, context that is meant to ‘soften,’ ‘reduce,’ or otherwise lessen the relative ‘wrongness’ of the behavior.

For this discussion, respond to the following points:

What sort of factors did the students point to in their efforts to ‘neutralize’ the deviance and stigma associated with cheating? How do these change the context of the cheating?
Are there people you would openly discuss cheating with but others you would not? What is different about these groups?
Can you think of other actions or behaviors that are viewed differently depending on context? What is different about the social settings or contexts where a behavior is considered ‘deviant’ and ‘not deviant’? (e.g., buying marijuana is legal in some states, not in others; smoking marijuana is acceptable among some friend, but not others; etc.)

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