Bribery is wrong, but…
U of Toronto profs find culture affects how we feel about bribery. From the Toronto Sun, October 9, 2011:
Bribery is viewed as morally wrong across cultures, but the question remains why some places are more prone to corruption than others.
According to research by Pankaj Aggarwal and Nina Mazar, two professors at the University of Toronto, part of the answer seems to be the level of collective feeling in a society.
The team discovered that people in more collectivist cultures – in which individuals see themselves as interdependent and as part of a larger society – are more likely to offer bribes than people from more individualistic cultures.
Aggarwal and Mazar suggest that people in collectivist societies may feel less individually responsible for their actions, and therefore less guilty about offering a bribe.
In their paper to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, the researchers used data from a group called Transparency International, which rated the tendency of business people from 22 different countries to offer bribes to foreign business partners. They compared this with scores from another existing study that rated how collectivist each of those countries was, and finally they adjusted for the wealth of each country.
The researchers also asked 140 business students to do a word search task, circling pronouns in a written vignette. In one version, the story contains singular pronouns (I, me, my), in the other plural (we, us, our).
They were then asked to imagine that they were sales agents competing against two other firms for a contract from an international buyer, and asked whether they would offer a bribe. Fifty eight per cent of the students who had been primed with the collectivist task said that they would offer a bribe, compared with 40% who had been primed with the individualist word task.
The participants all felt bribery is wrong, but the study’s authors said that “the collectivist-primed students saw themselves as much less personally responsible for offering the bribe.”
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