Photo by Jaki Portolese via Stocksy
Many believe that the corruption of a person occurs gradually, becoming more severe over a period of time. A new study says otherwise.
One need only look to Wall Street's torrid past to see the potential for corruption in America. Dishonest and unethical acts done for personal gain can range in scale and severity, from potential acts of political insider trading to entire nations that are controlled by corrupt rulers. Corruption may occur on a smaller scale as well, with everyday Americans seizing opportunities to abuse whatever power they have for their own gain.
A series of new studies compiled in a report, "The Road to Bribery and Corruption: Slippery Slope or Steep Cliff?" suggest that, given the opportunity, people are likely to perform corrupt acts such as bribery, if the opportunity arises abruptly. In the review, the researchers, led by Nils C. Köbis of the University of Amsterdam, explain that scientists have long thought that corruption occurs gradually, worsening over a period of time. However, Köbis found that people are actually more likely to participate in corruption if the chance to do so comes as a one-time opportunity. "The odds of abrupt severe bribery were 4.82 times higher compared with the odds of gradual severe bribery," the study reads.
For instance, students who participated in their experiments were given a certain amount of imaginary funds. One group was presented with the opportunity to make a one-time bribe that would result in their acquisition of significantly more money immediately. Other students were presented with the opportunity to make a smaller series of bribes that would increase their funds gradually, over time. The first group was more likely to take advantage of the opportunity, defying widely-held beliefs about the gradual nature of corruption. The researchers explain that this may be due to the idea that participating in behavior one knows to be unethical is psychologically burdensome, and thus it is easier to live with and rationalize a single corrupt act.
According to Köbis, people often perceive these sort of dishonest gainful opportunities to be victimless, or rationalize the behavior to see it as being harmless. However, "there is always a victim of corruption," Köbis explains in an interview with Broadly. "That can range from concretely identifiable victims like [another, honest] company that was fairly bidding for the contract to more abstract victims like the society as a whole." Because people who commit corruption "might never actually see the victim... the victim might not even know that corruption occurred and therefore not press charges against the perpetrator," Köbis says. In addition to this process of rationalization, people may be more likely to engage in corrupt behavior "if they think that others are doing it as well," he adds.
The United States has just experienced an intense exchange of political power that has some concerned about corruption in our own government. This study's findings may be disturbing, considering how easy it may be for people to choose corruption. Köbis says many countries deal with corruption, and "the question that needs to be answered for each country is whether the degree of corruption has increased."
"Empirical research and (investigative) journalism like the Panama Papers are two ways to expose corrupt practices and increase accountability," he adds.
On social media, youths are seizing the memes of production to prove that continental philosophy isn't just an academic abstraction.Apr 27, 2017
We asked researchers and students about the pop culture stereotype of all-girls schools being hotbeds for lesbian sex.Apr 27, 2017
As the US continues its descent into reproductive dystopia, a new service will offer counseling to American women attempting to self-induce at home.Apr 27, 2017
The country's Office of Film and Literature Classification issued a new rating, RP-18, specifically for the show.Apr 27, 2017
Ivanka Trump was visiting Berlin for a women's rights summit, and she didn't just get booed inside the conference hall. We followed protesters as they heckled the First Daughter from the streets.Apr 27, 2017
By 2020, the rates of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer are expected to surpass those of cervical cancer. So why aren't young men getting vaccinated?Apr 27, 2017
Malala Yousafzai talks with Broadly about the refugee crisis, her work advocating for women's rights and education, and to discuss her new project, Girl Power Trip, which kicked off its global tour in April, 2017.Apr 27, 2017
2017's kids rate "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Gilmore Girls," and other teen classics.Apr 27, 2017
We talked with students on the UC Davis campus where the "Wellness to Go" vending machine is located to find out how they feel about the quick and easy availability of the morning-after pill.Apr 26, 2017
Sexual education in America is failing teenagers, and many existing models fail to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STIs.Apr 26, 2017