Excuses, excuses, excuses: Why people
lie, cheat, and procrastinate
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.
May 18 2010 - 8:57am
Have you ever lied to get out of something you didn't want to do? Do you tend to put off
unpleasant jobs? In school, did you ever make up an excuse?
Cheat on a test? Most people
have had one of these experiences. According to my colleague Bob Feldman (Author of "
Liar in Your Life
"), the majority of the population lies, often without feeling remorse. Why do
people do this? And why does
lying, cheating, and procrastinating prevent us from achieving
On college campuses, students have notorious reputations for putting things off till the last minute
or failing to complete assignments or tests at all. Cheating is perceived by instructors as so
pervasive that we develop elaborate honor systems and codes to prevent
workplaces, bosses and coworkers know that employees bend, stretch, and distort the truth.
Shows like NBC's "
" put these behaviors in a humorous light, and everyone can
relate to these plot lines, no matter how ludicrous they may get.
But we know that preventing these behaviors is about as likely to be successful as stemming the
oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We can put up protective barriers, try to put the lid on this behavior,
or attempt to break it into small bits, but there's no way to eliminate it completely.
I have long been interested in the topic of student excuses, lying, and cheating, both from an
instructional and a theoretical point of view. My interest was first piqued by an article I read in a
education newspaper which accused college professors of killing off the grandparents.
The most typical student excuse for exams, missed papers, and the like, claimed the article's
author, was the death of a grandparent. Some students have, according to this article, killed off
not just 4 but as many as 8 or 10 grandparents in the course of their college careers. Even in a
blended family, 10 grandparents would be an unbelievable number. Obviously, said the author,
these kids are just making the whole thing up.
In a previous post on the topic of
grandparenting I talked a bit about the grandparent excuse, but
I'd like to revisit it here from a different vantage point. Students (or should I say professors) do
not actually kill the grandparents in their excuses. An anonymous survey I conducted on my
college campus of several hundred students showed that students didn't use dead grandparents
Excuses, excuses, excuses: Why people …