Why don’t more people cheat in online surveys?

The question is asked by John Sides here in response to this article. The article argues that the idea respondents cheats on self-completed surveys is a myth.

I think there are two main reasons why people don’t cheat in online surveys, one methodological and one theoretical.

First, in the study presented in the article only 2 out of 505 people cheated (less than 0.5 pct.). However, there is a big difference in the design compared to a real world setting. The respondents used a computer in a non-familiar room with no information about potential monitoring mechanisms (which, of course, were present). I recognize that it is hard to control for cheating behavior in a non-lab setting, but there are technological ways to overcome this problem. I may return to this problem in a later post.

Second, flip the question: Why would people cheat? It’s anonymous, nothing to win and nothing to lose. Imagine that people got $1 for each correctly answered question. Oh my, people would cheat! But when the gain of cheating is more or less non-existent, it is no mystery people aren’t motivated to cheat.

To sum up, it would be strange if anonymous people would cheat in a non-familiar setting without knowing whether or not he/she is being monitored, when the gains are low.