Understanding the relationship between culture and academic
dishonesty has many advantages for universities worldwide. Academic
dishonesty includes various activities of collegiate cheating from
wrongfully getting information by looking at a neighbor's test to
plagiarizing information in a term paper (Rawwas, Al-Khatib, and Vitell
2004). Hofstede (1991, p. 5) defines culture as "the collective
programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or
category of people from another." Christie et al. (2003) found that
culture has a strong influence on individuals' ethical attitudes.
This study develops the theoretical foundations and literature review to
examine the relationship between Hofstede's four dimensions of
culture (i.e., collectivism/individualism, masculinity/femininity, power
distance, and uncertainty avoidance), and the four dimensions of Rawwas
and Isakson's (2000) attitudes toward academic dishonesty model
(i.e., receiving and abetting academic dishonesty, obtaining an unfair
advantage, fabricating information, and ignoring prevalent practices).
Cross-cultural research has demonstrated contradictory and mixed
results in comparing the moral values of individuals from different
countries. These contradictions in past research may stem from the fact
that many researchers did not operationalize the construct of culture.
Rather, they used "country" as a surrogate for culture.
Consequently, it is difficult to determine whether differences in ethics
across cultures are indeed due to culture or whether they are due to
other factors. Kirkman, Lowe, and Gibson (2006) in their review of 180
studies stated that researchers tend to depend on Hofstede's (1980)
country scores instead of directly measuring cultural values. The
current study partially fills this gap in research by operationalizing
the culture construct using Hofstede's framework. This study fills
another gap by studying the relationship between Hofstede's four
dimensions of culture and academic dishonesty. Much of past research has
focused on studying the individualism-collectivism dichotomy and has
ignored the other dimensions of Hofstede's cultural framework
(Kirkman, Lowe, and Gibson 2006).
In summary, this study has three objectives. First, it lays the
theoretical foundation to explore the cultural orientations of MBA
students along the four dimensions of Hofstede's (1980) model.
Second, it lays the theoretical foundation and proposes a methodology to
study the academic dishonesty of MBA students along the four dimensions
of Rawwas and Isakson's (2000) model. Third, this study discusses
the theory needed to explore the relationship between culture and
2. LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES
Understanding the relationship between culture and academic
dishonesty is a great challenge for business schools in their quest for
globalization. Academic dishonesty is a growing problem and concern for
higher education at a global level (Rawwas, Al-Khatib, and Vitell 2004).
McCabe, Butterfield, and Trevino (2006) found that more than half of
college students in the United States and Canada admit to some form of
academic dishonesty. A 1999 U.S. News & World Report poll found that
64% of college students in the U.S.A. engage in academic dishonesty.
Similarly, a survey conducted by the Center for Academic Integrity at
Duke University reports that three quarters of college students in the
U.S.A confess to academic dishonesty at least once. The phenomenon of
academic dishonesty is not unique to U.S. students but is, rather, a
global challenge. As students continue to face various sources of
pressure from family, potential employers, and others to achieve higher
grades and as the economic situation continues to hold fewer employment
prospects for college graduates, academic dishonesty is likely to
continue to be a global issue of concern. While academic dishonesty has
been of interest to many researchers in the United States in the past,
very little is known about the academic integrity of students in other
Culture has a strong influence on attitudes toward both business
ethics and various questionable business practices (Christie et al.
2003). Hofstede identified four dimensions of culture:
Individualism/Collectivism. According to Hofstede (2001, p. 225)
individualism is evident in "a society in which the ties between
individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after
herself/himself and her/his immediate family only." Individualists
value personal independence, pleasure, individual expression and
personal time (Hofstede 1980; 1991). They tend to believe that personal
goals and interests are more important than group interests (Hofstede
1984). Individualist cultures respect "super achievers" (Kale
and Barnes 1992) and support a norm for excelling. In contrast, Hofstede
(2001, p. 225) states that collectivism is evident in "a society in
which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive
in-groups, which throughout people's lifetime continue to protect
them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty." A collectivist's
identity is based on the social system rather than on the self.
Collectivist cultures emphasize cooperation, affiliation, and security.
Wood et al. (1988) concluded that individualism/collectivism influences
the moral reasoning of individuals. Several studies have reported that
people in individualistic cultures are less concerned with following
formal moral rules. Verma (1985) reported a positive relationship
between individualism and the tendency to break rules. Akaah (1990)
found support that individualists are less ethical than collectivists.
It is therefore reasonable to believe that collectivist students may be
less likely to engage in questionable practices than more
achievement-oriented, individualistic students. Specifically, it is
hypothesized that among MBA students
H1a: Collectivism is a negative determinant of academic dishonesty.
H1b: Individualism is a positive determinant of academic
Masculinity/Femininity. Masculinity and femininity refer to the
dominant gender patterns in a society. Masculinity has been defined as
"a preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness, and material
success" (Hofstede 1985, p.348). Masculine individuals are
characterized as assertive, aggressive, tough, ambitious, competitive,
focused on material success and oriented toward money and material
objects. In contrast, feminine individuals are modest, tender, humble,
nurturing and concerned with the quality of life (Hofstede 1980; 1991;
and 2001). The ethical implications of masculinity center on the
relationship between aggressiveness and ethically acceptable behavior.
One problem is that assertive, masculine individuals might be more
tolerant of aggressive, questionable behavior than more feminine
persons. Modic (1987) demonstrated that ambition, personal financial
gain and desire to win are the greatest contributors to unethical
behavior. Cohen, Pant, and Sharp (1995) hypothesized that feminine
individuals might be more concerned with ethical issues and less
tolerant of aggressive, dollar-driven behavior. Thus, this study
predicts a positive relationship between masculinity and academic
dishonesty. It also anticipates a negative relationship between
femininity and academic dishonesty.
H2a: Masculinity is a positive determinant of academic dishonesty.
H2b: Femininity is a negative determinant of academic dishonesty.
Power Distance. Hofstede (2001, p. 98) proposes that power distance
represents "the extent to which the less powerful members of
institutions and organizations within a country accept that power is
distributed unequally." However, the uses of power and coercion are
frequent occurrences in high-power distance cultures (Kale, and
McIntyre, 1991). One important implication of power distance for ethical
decision-making relates to the likelihood that subordinates would
perform unethical actions in response to superiors' pressure
(Cohen, Pant, and Sharp 1995). Christie et al. (2003) ascertained that
business managers from a country with a small power distance (i.e., the
U.S.) viewed a questionable business practice (i.e., complying with the
superior's unethical order) as more unethical than business
managers from relatively large power distance oriented countries (i.e.,
India and Korea). These findings support the notion that students who
score higher on the power distance scale will reject questionable
academic activities less than students who score lower on the same
H3: Power distance is a positive determinant of academic dishonesty
Uncertainty Avoidance. Hofstede (2001, p. 161) defines uncertainty
avoidance as "the extent to which the members of a culture feel
threatened by uncertain or unknown situations." Individuals with
high uncertainty avoidance are more concerned with security in life,
feel a greater need for consensus and written rules and are intolerant
of deviations from the norm. In contrast, individuals with low
uncertainty avoidance are less concerned with security, rely less on
written rules and are more risk tolerant (Hofstede 1984). Past research
shows that individuals who are low in uncertainty avoidance are more
likely to take risks (Hofstede, 1984). From an ethical perspective the
tendency to take risks is highly correlated with unethical behavior
(Rallapalli et al. 1994). These findings provide evidence that students
who score higher on the uncertainty avoidance scale will reject
questionable academic activities more than students who score lower on
the same scale.
H4: Uncertainty avoidance is a negative determinant of academic
The instrument consists of three parts: 1) a measure of culture
along the four dimensions of Hofstede's model using the Dorfman and
Howell (1988) scale (30 items), 2) a measure of the attitudes toward
academic dishonesty along the four dimensions of Rawwas and
Isakson's (2000) academic dishonesty scale (24 items), and 3) a
measure of the demographics of participants (14 questions).
Dorfman and Howell's (1988) CULT scale will be used to
operationalize culture along the four dimensions of the Hofstede (1980)
model. Dorfman and Howell (1988) developed and validated their CULT
questionnaire adapting the culture scales from Hofstede's (1980)
macro-level constructs to capture the essence of the cultural dimensions
at the micro level. The reliabilities and factor analysis have been
satisfactory and consistent in studies performed with both Mexican and
Chinese managers (Dorfman and Howell 1988). Clugston, Howell, and
Dorfman (2000) used the scale successfully to explore the relationship
between culture and organizational commitment in the U.S. Swaidan,
Rawwas and Vitell (2008) successfully used the Dorfman and Howell CULT
questionnaire to explore the relationship between culture and moral
philosophy using a sample of African-American consumers. Clugston,
Howell, and Dorfman (2000) concluded that the Dorfman and Howell culture
scales are adequate measures of culture at the micro level.
Rawwas and Isakson's (2000) attitudes toward academic
dishonesty (ACAD) scale will be used to operationalize academic
dishonesty. Rawwas and Isakson (2000) developed and validated their ACAD
questionnaire that measures academic dishonesty along four dimensions.
The reliabilities and factor analysis have been satisfactory and
consistent in studies performed with American and Chinese marketing
students (Rawwas, Al-Khatib, and Vitell 2004). Rawwas, Swaidan, and
Al-Khatib (2006) used the scale successfully to examine the academic
dishonesty of Japanese students in religious and secular universities.
Rawwas, Swaidan, and Isakson (2007) used the scale to compare the
academic dishonesty of American and Hong Kong MBA students. Rawwas,
Swaidan, and Isakson (2007) concluded that the ACAD scales are adequate
measures of academic dishonesty. Factor analysis with varimax rotation
in several studies (e.g., Rawwas, Al-Khatib, and Vitell 2004) identified
four significant dimensions of ACAD. The first dimension is
"receiving and abetting academic dishonesty." The most
significant characteristics of this factor are (1) almost universally
perceived as unethical and (2) initiated by the student, such as
"using unauthorized crib notes during an exam." The second
factor, labeled as "obtaining an unfair advantage," arises
when students engage in a shady situation, for example "receiving
extra credit because the instructor likes you." The third
dimension, "fabricating information," happens when students
use faked excuses to justify wrongdoings, such as "using a faked
illness as an excuse for missing an exam." The last factor is
labeled "ignoring prevalent practices." Under this dimension,
students perceive that since the consequences of their actions appear to
produce minor harm, they are both permissible and ethical (e.g.,
visiting a professor's office frequently seeking help in a course).
4. CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS
This study lays the theoretical foundation to examine the
relationship between culture and students' academic ethics. The
roles culture plays on academic ethics shed light on how to teach ethics
more efficiently. One promising approach to teaching ethics is to match
the amount and content of ethics teaching to students' cultural
orientations. For example, students with tendencies toward high
collectivism, high uncertainty avoidance, low masculinity, and low power
distance may need to learn how to play leading roles as ethical models
in real or virtual business settings because they tend to be more
sensitive to unethical practices. They may also need to learn how to
handle less ethical partners and colleagues. In contrast, students with
low collectivism, low uncertainty avoidance, high masculinity, and high
power distance may need to learn more about the importance of ethics in
business and society and the consequences of unethical practices.
In the classroom, there should be enough interactive learning
between instructors and students to master appropriate actions for
ethically controversial situations. For example, although collectivism
is positively related to the level of ethics, in varying in-groups,
members may act unethically depending on the group's ethical
attitudes. A collectivist tends to less severely resist unethical
practices when they are common in the society or organization. For
example, Hispanic purchasing managers felt that questionable situations
were more ethical than did American purchasing managers because they
seemed to think that those questionable practices were acceptable all
over Mexico in most business situations (Tadepalli, Moreno, and Trevino
1999). Collectivist students need to learn how to continue to make
ethical academic decisions while escaping the in-group belief that a
divergent behavior is betrayal or disloyal.
Chang and Ding (1995) found that masculine students are more likely
to engage in unethical behaviors leading to personal gains. As
previously cited, masculine students are characterized as assertive,
aggressive, ambitious, competitive, and more oriented toward money and
material objects. Furthermore, Modic (1987) found that ambition,
personal financial gain, and desire to win were the greatest
contributors to unethical behavior. Thus, our hypotheses may have
academic implications if supported by empirical findings. For example,
universities that deal with more masculine students may need to adapt
their academic strategies to handle the unique characteristics of these
students. Adaptations may include adding more ethics courses, adding
more ethics content to current courses, and/or adding more ethics
training to handle these students. Such strategic adaptations may
influence the mix of academic variables including program offerings,
pricing, promotion and delivery.
This study hypothesizes that power distance will be a direct
predictor of academic dishonesty. This relationship is somewhat expected
since students high in power distance are more likely to form submissive
attachments than those low in power distance (Hofstede 2001). This
hypothesis supports the likelihood that the academic dishonesty of high
power distance students may depend on the situation. Thus, these
students will often base their ethical decisions on situational factors.
This finding has an important strategic implication for academicians in
that academicians may find it more difficult to predict or control the
ethical behavior of high power distance students. Academicians should
not give the chance to high power distance students to cheat. They need
to focus on the value of ethical practices in their classes more than
within less power distance cultures.
Past research has found that students with high uncertainty
avoidance are more concerned with security in life, feel a greater need
for consensus and written rules and are intolerant of deviations from
the norm (Hofstede 2001). Hofstede's typology implies that students
strong in uncertainty avoidance need more direction and instructions to
make their learning experience more convenient. It seems that students
with high uncertainty avoidance may feel more comfortable in structured
situations and uncomfortable in unstructured settings. Thus,
academicians can improve academic ethics of students who have strong
uncertainty avoidance by providing them with more guidance and
instructions. By doing so, academicians will help students high in
uncertainty avoidance to feel more comfortable learning in an
environment where they can have easy access to detailed ethical
instructions and easy communications to their instructors. Students high
in uncertainty avoidance may perceive the universities that do not
provide such support as ambiguous, more intimidating, unfriendly, and
less ethical and will be less likely to continue their education in such
universities. This is especially important for universities that offer
their MBA programs online.
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Ziad Swaidan, University of Houston-Victoria, Texas, USA
Raed Awamleh, Middlesex University Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Rzan Swaidan, University of Houston, Texas, USA
Dr. Ziad Swaidan received his Ph.D. from the University of
Mississippi in 1999. Currently he is an associate professor of marketing
at the University of Houston-Victoria, Texas, USA.
Professor Raed Awamleh received his Ph.D. from the University of
Mississippi 1998. Currently he is a professor of management at the
Middlesex University at Dubai.
Rzan Swaidan is a business student at the University of
Houston-Victoria, Texas, USA.