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An Experimental Bribery Game


  • Klaus Abbink

    (Universitaet Bonn)

  • Bernd Irlenbusch

    (Universitaet Bonn)

  • Elke Renner

    (WHU - Otto-Beisheim-Hochschule)


Essential characteristics of corruption are (1) a reciprocity relationship between briber and public official, (2) negative external effects to others, and (3) high penalties for the parties involved in case of discovery. We separate the behavioural influences of these factors in a laboratory experiment. A two-player reciprocity game is designed in which trust and recipro-cation cause negative external effects to other subjects and are overall inefficient. A control treatment without such negative externalities is also conducted. In a third, so-called sudden death treatment, corrupt pairs face a low probability of being punished by exclusion from the experiment without payment. All games are played in supergames with fixed pairs. The results show that trust and reciprocation establish stable bribery relationships, where the negative externality has no apparent effect on behaviour. The threat of the sudden death penalty, how-ever, significantly reduces the frequency of corrupt decisions, although additional question-naires suggest that the discovery probability is even under-estimated.

Suggested Citation

  • Klaus Abbink & Bernd Irlenbusch & Elke Renner, 2000. "An Experimental Bribery Game," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1389, Econometric Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:wc2000:1389

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin A & Smith, Vernon L, 1998. "Behavioral Foundations of Reciprocity: Experimental Economics and Evolutionary Psychology," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 335-352, July.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
    3. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 285-300, October.
    4. Klaus Abbink & Bernd Irlenbusch & Elke Renner, 2002. "An Experimental Bribery Game," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(2), pages 428-454, October.
    5. Selten, Reinhard & Stoecker, Rolf, 1986. "End behavior in sequences of finite Prisoner's Dilemma supergames A learning theory approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 47-70, March.
    6. Abbink, Klaus & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Renner, Elke, 2000. "The moonlighting game: An experimental study on reciprocity and retribution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 265-277, June.
    7. Manion, Melanie, 1996. "Corruption by Design: Bribery in Chinese Enterprise Licensing," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 167-195, April.
    8. Jacobsen, Eva & Abdolkarim Sadrieh, 1996. "Experimental Proof for the Motivational Importance of Reciprocity," Discussion Paper Serie B 386, University of Bonn, Germany.
    9. Vito Tanzi, 1998. "Corruption Around the World; Causes, Consequences, Scope, and Cures," IMF Working Papers 98/63, International Monetary Fund.
    10. Burnham, Terence & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L., 2000. "Friend-or-foe intentionality priming in an extensive form trust game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 57-73, September.
    11. Avner Offer, 1997. "Between the gift and the market: the economy of regard," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 50(3), pages 450-476, August.
    12. Fahr, Rene & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2000. "Fairness as a constraint on trust in reciprocity: earned property rights in a reciprocal exchange experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 275-282, March.
    13. Paolo Mauro, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712.
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    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law


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