Neuroscience: A New Model for Anticorruption Policies?

20 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2018

See all articles by Licurgo Mourão

Licurgo Mourão

University of São Paulo – USP

Date Written: January 16, 2018


Since the collapse of the narratives on corruption in the modern social sciences, and from the discrediting experienced by anti-corruption policies based on the Agency Theory, new perspectives on corruption have emerged. Most of them support a culturalist or anthropological view, based in social practices, routines and in collective action. However, a smaller part of the studies bases its explanation on the revival of classic approaches to crime in biology. These studies, driven by the advances in the neurosciences, allowed diagnoses – through brain scanning techniques – of disorders and brain injuries that could be related to corrupt behavior. This article provides an overview of a neuroscientific approach to corruption and its implications in the field of public administration, especially in the creation of anticorruption policies. Could it, in fact, help reformulate old policies? Or, on the contrary, is this approach merely a repetition of old formulas? To what extent can public policies based on neuroscience stimulate more effective interventions and good governance programs? The article is divided into three parts: in the first section, we present the context in which the neuroscientific approach is developed, quickly comparing it to other approaches also related to governance in the public sector. In the following section, we describe the main characteristics of neuroscience studies that make them attractive to management professionals and policy makers. In the last section, we analyze their ability to identify possible corrupt behaviors and also their limitations, considering a field research carried out in 2015.

Keywords: Administrative Law, Financial Law, Constitutional Law, External control, Corruption, Neurolaw, Neuroscience, Public policies

JEL Classification: H83, K, K4, K42, M4, M41, M42, M48, Z, Z18

Suggested Citation

Mourão, Licurgo, Neuroscience: A New Model for Anticorruption Policies? (January 16, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Licurgo Mourão (Contact Author)

University of São Paulo – USP ( email )

Largo São Francisco, 95 Prédio Anexo
São Paulo, São Paulo 01005-010


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