The role of moral identity and regret on cheating in sport

Philip Hurst, Maria Kavussanu, John Swain, Chris Ring

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Abstract

Cheating in sport can have adverse interpersonal consequences and violate the ideal of fair play, which involves abiding by the rules when competing. To help develop effective methods to prevent cheating in sport, research is needed that identifies the psychological factors underpinning an athlete’s decision to cheat. The purpose of this multi-study research was to examine the role of moral identity and regret on cheating in sport. In Study 1, we used a cross-sectional design to examine relationships between moral identity, regret, and cheating attitudes. In Study 2, we used a field design to examine relationships between moral identity, regret, and cheating attitudes during competitive running races to win prize money. After awarding the prize money to the winners, we asked participants whether they would change their decision to cheat if given the opportunity. In Study 1, moral identity was directly and indirectly (via regret) related to cheating attitudes. In Study 2, participants who cheated reported lower moral identity, greater regret, and more favourable cheating attitudes than those who did not cheat. After the prizes were awarded to winners, those who did not cheat, but wanted to change their decision to cheat, reported greater feelings of regret compared to those not wanting to change their decision. In conclusion, cheating in sport elicits regret, which could modify future cheating behaviour. However, athletes may be more likely to cheat in future if they had chosen not to cheat and foregone a benefit.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Early online date31 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Anti-social behaviour
  • anticipated regret
  • counterfactual regret
  • emotion
  • unethical behaviour

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