Many ethical dilemmas land on our doorstep when we least expect them, but there’s one that arrives with dogged regularity—the annual income tax return.
While there are thousands of strict regulations and rules, and many checks and balances, a lot depends on our own integrity. With the Internal Revenue Service able to audit so few returns, the tax code becomes dependent to a surprising degree on the honor system, and that can lead to strong temptations to cheat.
Want to know the best way to prevent people from cheating? Don’t try too hard to stop them.
A new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that the worst thing an employer, a teacher, or a business can do is to set up an elaborate system to catch cheaters. People will inevitably rise to the challenge – not because they need the financial benefit of cheating but because they enjoy the high of beating the system. Take the challenge away and a lot of the cheating will vanish on its own.