A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has found that people are more likely to cheat when they’re anxious. Researchers had sixty-three volunteers listen to either calm music for three minutes, or listen to the score from Psycho. They then took a quick psychological test (which showed that the Psycho listeners were indeed anxious and threatened). The volunteers then played a simple computer game with real cash stakes, without realising that they were being closely monitored.
Researchers observed the non-anxious volunteers cheating nineteen times, compared with twenty-four times for the anxious group. They say that either anxiety impeaches our moral judgement, or perhaps anxiety causes us to think in terms of preservation, making us grab whatever we need to survive.
Either way, it’s worthwhile to remember: when anxiety comes creeping, the rules of fair play are likely to go right out the window.