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Psychol Addict Behav. 2012 Sep;26(3):678-82. doi: 10.1037/a0027872. Epub 2012 Apr 30.

Judging cheaters: is substance misuse viewed similarly in the athletic and academic domains?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA.


The present study examines how individuals judge others who use performance-enhancing drugs in two different domains--the athletic domain and the academic domain. Approximately 1,200 males in their freshman year of college completed a questionnaire that included two scenarios. One scenario described an athlete who misused anabolic steroids to help him succeed at a sporting event. The other described a college student who misused Adderall to help him succeed on his midterm exams. Participants rated the extent to which they thought the target had cheated and the extent to which they felt the substances were necessary for success. Results showed participants believed the athlete was more of a cheater than the student, and this difference got larger as past prescription stimulant misuse increased. Results also demonstrated that participants felt Adderall was more necessary than anabolic steroids for bringing about success. Contributions to the literature on zero-sum and non-zero-sum domains are discussed. Implications for future research and efforts to prevent substance misuse are described.

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