Why do peo­ple cheat?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q&A - CARO­LINE O’BRIEN, SB

BE­CAUSE THEY WANT to win the

easy way. As com­pet­i­tive an­i­mals, we

hu­man beings con­stantly seek out

op­por­tu­ni­ties to gain money, food and

sex, or sim­ply to look good. Do­ing all this

the hard way re­quires ex­pe­d­i­ture of time,

efffff­fort and en­ergy, so cheating can

ob­vi­ously be very tempt­ing.

Evo­lu­tion­ary game the­ory has helped to

ex­plain how al­tru­ism can ex­ist along­side

cheating. Gen­er­ally, cheats do well when

they are rare, but less well when they are

many and have fewer non-cheaters they

can ex­ploit. So groups tend to­wards an

equi­lib­rium, with few enough cheats that

it’s not worth the cost of stop­ping them.

Sadly, this ba­sic bi­o­log­i­cal prin­ci­ple

means we are un­likely ever to be

com­pletely free of cheats.

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