Educational Psychology

Our interest in educational psychology focuses on three issues: academic cheating, effects of prior learning, and alternative testing methods.

Academic Cheating

We have examined individual difference predictors of cheating on multiple choice exams and, more recently, on essays (i.e., plagiarism). Among other things, we showed that cheating was more likely in individuals with poor academic preparedness, and high subclinical psychopathy (Nathanson, Paulhus, & Williams, 2006; Williams, Nathanson, & Paulhus, 2010). We have also conducted a meta-analysis of the relation between cognitive ability and likelihood of cheating (Paulhus & Dubois, 2015): Unfortunately every behavioral study in that review indicated that deficits in cognitive ability are predictive of increased academic dishonesty.

Paradoxes of Prior Learning
A paradoxical effect in the literature intrigued us: Specifically, students who have taken introductory psychology fare no better and in some samples fare worse than students who have take no prior psychology courses. We showed how that paradox derived from self-selection effects. In fact, introductory courses do benefit students. But students who choose to take introductory psychology tend to be anti-scientific and, therefore, perform poorly in more advance courses (Nathanson, Paulhus, & Williams, 2004).

Alternative Testing Methods

We demonstrated that the over-claiming technique (OCT) for evaluating knowledge accuracy is just as valid and less stressful than traditional multiple-choice tests (Paulhus & Dubois, 2014). That study also showed that overclaiming bias predicts poorer course performance . Finally, we showed the parallels between OCT and IRT methods from a signal detection perspective (Williams & Zumbo, 2003).