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The Psychology of Plagiarism
Unformatted Document Text:  expediency. Such tradeoffs are a central element of daily journalism, which demands that practitioners collect original information under deadline pressure. Obtaining original information breeds an institutional reluctance to credit others while deadline pressure creates incentives to consider facts uniquely gathered by others to be part of the public record and beyond attribution. The psychology hypothesis may demonstrate that journalistic plagiarism has more in common with a “normal” accident 65 than with a troubled mind. Affirming the finding that plagiarists treat their principles with more flexibility are the results showing that plagiarists are much more likely to see the offense as common. Such self-justifying behavior affirms the theory of reasoned action, which contends that intentions to engage in behavior are influenced by personal attitudes and prevailing norms. 66 When individuals believe that plagiarism frequently occurs, they are more likely to rationalize it – and those justifications are more likely to occur if one’s principles are negotiable. Likewise, the nuances uncovered in copying from the Internet demonstrate anew that plagiarists view the offense elastically, which means that simple “never plagiarize” proscriptions such as is found in the SPJ ethics code are inadequate, especially if individuals see principles as moldable. A limitation of this research is that even when respondents are anonymous, surveys about sensitive ethical issues may elicit untruthful answers. The convenience samples limit the generalizability of the findings, particularly for the number of plagiarists, but that’s less of a concern for the personality measures and comparisons at the core of the research. In addition, results may vary according to the personality test used. Although the Big Five model is widely used and Schlenker’s Integrity Scale is well

Authors: Lewis, Norman. and Zhong, Bu.
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expediency. Such tradeoffs are a central element of daily journalism, which demands that 
practitioners collect original information under deadline pressure. Obtaining original 
information breeds an institutional reluctance to credit others while deadline pressure 
creates incentives to consider facts uniquely gathered by others to be part of the public 
record and beyond attribution. The psychology hypothesis may demonstrate that 
journalistic plagiarism has more in common with a “normal” accident
 than with a 
troubled mind. 
Affirming the finding that plagiarists treat their principles with more flexibility 
are the results showing that plagiarists are much more likely to see the offense as 
common. Such self-justifying behavior affirms the theory of reasoned action, which 
contends that intentions to engage in behavior are influenced by personal attitudes and 
prevailing norms.
 When individuals believe that plagiarism frequently occurs, they are 
more likely to rationalize it – and those justifications are more likely to occur if one’s 
principles are negotiable. Likewise, the nuances uncovered in copying from the Internet 
demonstrate anew that plagiarists view the offense elastically, which means that simple 
“never plagiarize” proscriptions such as is found in the SPJ ethics code are inadequate, 
especially if individuals see principles as moldable.
A limitation of this research is that even when respondents are anonymous, 
surveys about sensitive ethical issues may elicit untruthful answers. The convenience 
samples limit the generalizability of the findings, particularly for the number of 
plagiarists, but that’s less of a concern for the personality measures and comparisons at 
the core of the research. In addition, results may vary according to the personality test 
used. Although the Big Five model is widely used and Schlenker’s Integrity Scale is well 


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