This study examines the effectiveness of assessment questions in distinguishing perpetrators of dishonest acts from non-perpetrators. Virtually all fraud examination or forensic accounting textbooks teach that assessment questions are useful in identifying perpetrators. Yet there are no scientific studies that provide empirical support for this notion. Using cheating and shoplifting as examples of dishonest acts (i.e., fraud), and using a series of studies wherein we anonymously put assessment questions to university students, we find that students who have perpetrated dishonest acts respond differently to assessment questions than do students who have not perpetrated those acts. Cheaters tend to respond that cheating is more common than do non-cheaters, and cheaters tend to respond that punishments for cheating should be less severe than do non-cheaters. Results for shoplifters versus non-shoplifters are similar. Some assessment questions are more effective than others, and how questions are framed seems to be relevant.

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