One in four students said they would cheat in the future
Students who are bravest are least likely to cheat, say US researchers.
Two studies of more than 400 students at Ohio State University found those who did not cheat scored highest in tests of courage and empathy.
They also, perhaps unsurprisingly, scored higher than cheaters on tests of honesty.
Presenting the findings at the American Psychological Association conference, the researchers said the "academic heroes" were in the minority.
In the studies, students were asked if they had cheated in classes in the past 30 days and in the past year and whether they would be likely to cheat in the future.
The students also completed measures that examined their bravery, honesty and empathy.
Those who scored in the top half - the so-called "academic heroes" - were less likely to have reported cheating in the past 30 days and were less likely to intend to cheat in the future.
They also reported they would feel more guilt if they cheated and did not rationalise cheating the way others did.
In addition they struggled to believe that their fellow students regularly committed academic dishonesty.
The honest students "have a more positive view of others", said study leader Professor Sara Staats.
She added: "Students who don't cheat seem to be in the minority, and have plenty of opportunities to see their peers cheat and receive the rewards with little risk of punishment.
"We see avoiding cheating as a form of everyday heroism in an academic setting."
The researchers added that other studies had shown that more than half - and sometimes up to 80% - of university students report that they have cheated.
Dr Paul Seagar, spokesperson for the British Psychological Society and lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, said the findings were to be expected.
"These people probably have stronger personalities and are less likely to give into temptation."