Thurman et al. (Cite) found that tax evaders used one other neutralization strategy to justify their tax evasion. The tax evaders felt that since everyone else was cheating on their taxes, then they also should be allowed to cheat (Cite). This same neutralization may also be used by college student cheaters.
Although delinquency and cheating are similar in the way the offenders view their illegal acts, there are two main differences between the two groups: (1) delinquents feel the legal system is out to get them, while the cheaters feel the law is on their side; and (2) cheaters consider themselves to be more committed to conventional values and respectability than do delinquents. Consequently, cheaters have a greater need to neutralize the moral bind of the law than do delinquents (Cite). Cheaters can cover themselves in “purity” because the “structural immortality” of society provides them with a virtual library of verbal techniques to use in their neutralization of the moral bind of the law (Cite). Neutralization theory does have its critics. While neutralization theorists suggest that offenders hold rather global notions of right and wrong, such as “thou shalt not steal,” critics contend that individuals have more specific guidelines for behavior in times of temptation, such as when they use levels of cheating in their thought process to consider some types of cheating as moral and other types as immoral (Cite). Sheley’s research also found that since there was no homogeneity of moral values in society, initial offenses do not always require neutralization ((Cite).
Rationalization is usually thought of as referring to the process of finding some logical excuse for a questionable action that has already occurred, but it can also apply to the thoughts leading to the action and to the final decision to act (Cite) Rationalization usually comes into play after the crime has been committed (Cite) but the mere availability of rationalization seems to play a role in cheating ((Cite). Thinking up a seemingly good reason for unacceptable behavior is the simplest way to avoid feelings of guilt (Cite). By redefining the meaning of a certain behavior, people can rationalize their behavior as being justified under the circumstances (Cite).
Rationalization is used by both professional criminals and student cheaters. Professional criminals rationalize that they are no more dishonest than the greedy business people they steal from (Cite), while student cheaters may rationalize that, since other students are not obeying the law, they have to cheat to be academically competitive.