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On the interpretation of bribery in a laboratory corruption game: moral frames and social norms

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  • Ritwik Banerjee

    () (Aarhus University)

Abstract

Abstract Past studies on laboratory corruption games have not been able to find consistent evidence that subjects make “immoral” decisions. A possible reason, and also a critique of laboratory corruption games, is that the experiment may fail to trigger the intended immorality frame in the minds of the participants, leading many to question the very raison d’être of laboratory corruption games. To test this idea, we compare behavior in a harassment bribery game with a strategically identical but neutrally framed ultimatum game. The results show that fewer people, both as briber and bribee, engage in corruption in the bribery frame than in the alternative and the average bribe amount is lesser in the former than in the latter. These suggest that moral costs are indeed at work. A third treatment, which relabels the bribery game in neutral language, indicates that the observed treatment effect arises not from the neutral language of the ultimatum game but from a change in the sense of entitlement between the bribery and ultimatum game frames. To provide further support that the bribery game does measure moral costs, we elicit the shared perceptions of appropriateness of the actions or social norm, under the two frames. We show that the social norm governing the bribery game frame and ultimatum game frame are indeed different and that the perceived sense of social appropriateness plays a crucial role in determining the actual behavior in the two frames. Furthermore, merely relabelling the bribery game in neutral language makes no difference to the social appropriateness norm governing it. This indicates that, just as in the case of actual behavior, the observed difference in social appropriateness norm between bribery game and ultimatum game comes from the difference in entitlement too. Finally, we comment on the external validity of behavior in lab corruption games.

Suggested Citation

  • Ritwik Banerjee, 2016. "On the interpretation of bribery in a laboratory corruption game: moral frames and social norms," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(1), pages 240-267, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:19:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s10683-015-9436-1
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-015-9436-1
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    Cited by:

    1. Christoph Engel, 2016. "Experimental Criminal Law. A Survey of Contributions from Law, Economics and Criminology," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2016_07, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    2. Johannes Buckenmaier & Eugen Dimant & Luigi Mittone, 2016. "Tax Evasion and Institutions. An Experiment on The Role of Principal Witness Regulations," PPE Working Papers 0007, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    3. Abigail Barr & Tom Lane & Daniele Nosenzo, 2015. "On the social appropriateness of discrimination," Discussion Papers 2015-25, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    4. Banerjee, Ritwik & Baul, Tushi & Rosenblat, Tanya, 2015. "On self selection of the corrupt into the public sector," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 43-46.
    5. Banerjee, Ritwik & Mitra, Arnab, 2018. "On monetary and non-monetary interventions to combat corruption," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 332-355.
    6. repec:kap:pubcho:v:172:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0452-x is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Alekseev, Aleksandr & Charness, Gary & Gneezy, Uri, 2017. "Experimental methods: When and why contextual instructions are important," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 48-59.
    8. Banerjee, Ritwik, 2016. "Corruption, norm violation and decay in social capital," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 14-27.
    9. Dmitry Ryvkin & Danila Serra, 2016. "The Industrial Organization of Corruption: Monopoly, Competition and Collusion," Working Papers wp2016_10_01, Department of Economics, Florida State University.
    10. Caleb A. Cox & Brock Stoddard, 2015. "Framing and Feedback in Social Dilemmas with Partners and Strangers," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(4), pages 1-19, September.
    11. repec:kap:porgrv:v:17:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11115-016-0351-5 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Corruption; Framing effects; Social norms; External validity;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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