New Podcast–An End-of-Year Review Featuring Nils Köbis and Christopher Starke

Happy (slightly belated) New Year! As our regular readers may have noticed, GAB has been on vacation for the past couple of weeks (partly because of the holidays, partly because your editor-in-chief has been away), but we’re back, and new content will be appearing imminently.

Partly because of our long hiatus, I neglected to post that a couple of weeks ago my ICRN collaborators Nils Köbis and Christopher Starke released a special year-end episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast; in this podcast, Nils and Christopher which recap some of the highlights of our 2019 podcast episodes, highlighting interesting insights, lessons, and thoughts regarding the future of anticorruption research and practice (as well as some reflections on our experiences with our foray into podcasting).

You can find this episode, along with links to previous podcast episodes, at the following locations:

KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the ICRN. If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.

New Podcast Episode, Featuring Shaul Shalvi

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this episode, Nils Köbis interviews Professor Shaul Shalvi, of the University of Amsterdam’s Center for Research in Experimental Economics and Political Decision-Making (CREED), about how experimental research in behavioral psychology can help us understand corruption, and unethical behavior more generally. In addition to covering some of the main experimental results on ethical behavior (some of which can be found here), Professor Shalvi also discusses how and when children develop the ability to cheat, and the shift in research on ethical decision-making from an individual perspective (studying people who make ethical decisions by themselves) to a more social perspective (studying contexts in which people make ethical decisions together). This latter perspective considers questions like how unethical behavior by some can encourage others to break ethical rules as well, and how the perception of the identity of the victim (an abstraction, like “society,” versus a concrete person or people) can affect people’s willingness to break ethical rules.

You can find this episode, along with links to previous podcast episodes, at the following locations:

KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the ICRN. If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.

Guest Post: The Taxi Driver Paradox–or How Descriptive Social Norms Shape Corrupt Behavior

Nils Köbis, a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Experimental Economics and Political Decision-Making (CREED), University of Amsterdam, contributes today’s guest post:

Whenever I am traveling and take a taxi, I try to strike up a conversation with the driver. The beauty of this situation is that both sides can be really candid. The length is typically short, and chances are you will never meet again. The chat usually kicks off with some small talk about sports, weather, and food. Once warmed up, I have often asked: “What do you think is the biggest problem in your society?” So far, the most common answer has been corruption. And my taxi-driver-based anecdotal evidence is consistent with large  international surveys. Notwithstanding the old canard that people who live in corrupt societies generally tolerate corruption as normal and natural, ample empirical evidence (and my taxi drivers) suggests that this is not true: People widely despise corruption, especially in countries riddled with it. Yet on several occasions the very same taxi driver who has been ranting to me about corruption has stopped by a traffic police officer—and willingly paid a bribe to avoid a ticket.

What explains this apparent paradox? The most frequent explanation for why a person outraged by corruption would nevertheless pay a bribe is that “everybody does it”—as the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie nicely puts it, “If we do something over and over again it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over again it becomes normal.” This notion of normality plays an important role in explaining why corruption is sometimes the exception and sometimes the rule. Scholars who research social norms differentiate between injunctive norms, which concern whether a given behavior is acceptable, and descriptive norms, which indicate whether the same behavior is common. This distinction might help to explain the taxi-driver-paradox: People might often bribe because everybody else is doing it, even though they think it’s wrong. Continue reading