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Does the act refer to to be a cheater, not cheating in this passage? In view of context, I think both the act and the behavior refer to to be a cheater, not cheating. But I am not 100% sure.

Bryan finds that appeal to character are effective for adults as well. His team was able to cut cheating in half: instead of “Please don’t cheat,” they changed the appeal to “Please don’t be a cheater.” When you’re urged not to cheat, you can do it and still see an ethical person in the mirror. But when you’re told not to be a cheater, the act casts a shadow; immorality is tied to your identity, making the behavior much less attractive. Cheating is an isolated action that gets evaluated with the logic of consequence: Can I get away with it? Being a cheater evokes a sense of self, triggering the logic of appropriateness: What kind of person am I, and who do I want to be? In light of this evidence, Bryan suggests that we should embrace nouns more thoughtfully. “Don’t Drink and Drive” could be rephrased as: “Don’t Be a Drunk Driver.” The same thinking can be applied to originality. When a child draws a picture, instead of calling the artwork creative, we can say “You are creative.”

Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World

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Cheating is an act. Being a cheat is not an act, so "the act" and "the behavior" refer to the act of cheating.

The act (of cheating) casts a shadow

This is because the act makes you feel bad about yourself if you've been asked not to be a cheater, rather than simply asked not to cheat.

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