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People who cheat at social games are cheaters in real life too. So says a survey by casual game maker PopCap Games.

The survey looked at the habits of more than 1,200 adult consumers. Of those who admit cheating, the stats are telling. About 48 percent of them admit to cheating in real life as well. Of those who say they don’t cheat in social games, only 14 percent said they cheated in real life on everything from stealing hotel towels to cheating on taxes. That means people who cheat in social games are 3.5 times more likely to be dishonest in real life, compared to those who don’t cheat in social games.

The data shows that about 118 million people regularly play social games in the U.S. and the U.K., and about 55 percent of the players are women. About 11 percent of those who play social games in the U.K. admit to cheating, while 7 percent of U.S. players say they cheat. The survey said that men are more likely to cheat in social games than women (54 percent to 46 percent). And 72 percent of the cheaters are under the age of 40.

The report was conducted by the Information Solutions Group for PopCap. Of those who admit to cheating, 53 percent said they cheat on tests at school. U.K. cheaters are more likely to cheat on their taxes than U.S. cheaters (58 percent versus 33 percent). About 51 percent of people who cheat at social games park in handicap spaces or steal towels, cups or other items from hotels (compared to just 14 percent of those who said they don’t cheat at social games). About 49 percent of the cheaters also cheated on a committed relationship; 47 percent reported stealing packets of sugar, butter or jam from a restaurant; and 43 percent said they steal magazines from waiting rooms.

“How we behave in virtual space and interact with others in social games often mirrors how we act in the real world,” said Clay Routledge, professor of psychology at North Dakota State University. “With more than 100 million people playing social games regularly, we can expect to see the full range of psychological characteristics represented in the social gaming population – even cheating.”

The survey polled members of Toluna’s Internet ePanel in the United States and United Kingdom between September 15 and September 22, 2011. Of the 1,201 respondents, 801 (67%) were from the U.S., while 400 (33%) were from the U.K.

[Image credit: Lions Den]

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