'Who Doesn’t?' — The Impact of Descriptive Norms on Corruption

PLoS ONE 10(6), 2015

14 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2018

See all articles by Nils Köbis

Nils Köbis

Max Planck Institute for Human Development - Center for Humans and Machines

Jan-Willem van Prooijen

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Social and Organizational Psychology

Francesca Righetti

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Social and Organizational Psychology

Paul A. M. van Lange

Free University of Amsterdam

Date Written: June 29, 2015

Abstract

Corruption poses one of the major societal challenges of our time. Considerable advances have been made in understanding corruption on a macro level, yet the psychological antecedents of corrupt behavior remain largely unknown. In order to explain why some people engage in corruption while others do not, we explored the impact of descriptive social norms on corrupt behavior by using a novel behavioral measure of corruption. We conducted three studies to test whether perceived descriptive norms of corruption (i.e. the belief about the prevalence of corruption in a specific context) influence corrupt behavior. The results indicated that descriptive norms highly correlate with corrupt behavior — both when measured before (Study 1) or after (Study 2) the behavioral measure of corruption. Finally, we adopted an experimental design to investigate the causal effect of descriptive norms on corruption (Study 3). Corrupt behavior in the corruption game significantly drops when participants receive short anti-corruption descriptive norm primes prior to the game. These findings indicate that perceived descriptive norms can impact corrupt behavior and, possibly, could offer an explanation for inter-personal and inter-cultural variation in corrupt behavior in the real world. We discuss implications of these findings and draw avenues for future research.

Keywords: corruption, bribery, social norms, descriptive norms, social psychology, moral psychology

Suggested Citation

Köbis, Nils and van Prooijen, Jan-Willem and Righetti, Francesca and van Lange, Paul A. M., 'Who Doesn’t?' — The Impact of Descriptive Norms on Corruption (June 29, 2015). PLoS ONE 10(6), 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3293733

Nils Köbis (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Human Development - Center for Humans and Machines ( email )

Berlin
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/person/107772

Jan-Willem Van Prooijen

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Social and Organizational Psychology ( email )

Netherlands

Francesca Righetti

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Social and Organizational Psychology ( email )

Netherlands

Paul A. M. Van Lange

Free University of Amsterdam

Amsterdam, ND North Holland
Netherlands

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