Framing plagiarism as a disease heightens students' valuation of academic integrity

Lucas A. Keefer, Mitch Brown, Zachary K. Rothschild
Published Online:
16 Apr 2019

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Prior research based on conceptual metaphor theory has explored how metaphorical language subtly influences how people perceive social issues. For instance, rhetoric comparing a perceived problem to a disease has been used historically to generate support for a wide array of measures proposed to “treat” the problem, and recent experimental work demonstrates the efficacy of this approach. The current paper extends this literature by looking at the use of disease metaphor in a novel domain: student perceptions of plagiarism on campus. We found that participants (N = 365) exposed to a disease‐metaphoric description of plagiarism on campus perceived it to be a more severe problem and, as a result, were more supportive of a variety of anti‐plagiarism policies. This mediational analysis further demonstrates the far‐reaching practical significance of metaphor.

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