This study was conducted on the basis of motivation theories and adopted theoretical concepts from achievement goal theory and self-efficacy to explore the motivational variables related to the acceptability of two types of cheating behaviors, namely academic cheating and passive cheating, among Taiwanese junior high school students in the subject of mathematics. The aims of the study were threefold: first, to understand the degree of acceptability of the two types of cheating behaviors among Taiwanese students; second, to investigate the relationships between personal achievement goals and the acceptability of the two types of cheating; and third, to test whether these relationships are moderated by academic self-efficacy. Nine hundred thirty-eight seventh-to-ninth-grade Taiwanese students (473 boys; 23 missing values) participated in the survey, and the researchers applied the technique of structural equation modeling for data analysis. The results indicated that boys were slightly more accepting of the two types of cheating behaviors than girls, and eighth-and ninth-grade students, regardless of gender, were more accepting of both cheating behaviors than seventh-grade students. Moreover, it was found that personal achievement goals can effectively predict the two types of cheating behaviors, which can be negatively predicted by mastery-approach goals and positively predicted by performance-avoidance goals. In particular, performance-approach goals only positively predicted individuals’ acceptance of passive cheating. Finally, it was revealed that academic self-efficacy moderates the relationship between personal achievement goals and individuals’ acceptance of cheating behaviors. Specifically, a high level of academic self-efficacy perceived by individuals was associated with a decrease in the negative predictive power of students’ adoption of performance-avoidance goals with respect to the acceptability of both cheating behaviors. A low level of academic self-efficacy perceived by individuals was associated with an increase in the negative predictive power of students’ adoption of performance-avoidance goals with respect to the acceptability of both cheating behaviors. Based on the findings, relevant recommendations are proposed as a reference for further research, teaching practices, and junior high school counseling.
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