New scientific evidence on corruption and stereotypes about corruption reveals surprising behavioural responses. Social psychologist classified corruption as a behavioural trait of a person. The new evidence of a study that includes country-specific stereotypes into a corruption experiment shows there are always two sides to consider: the corrupted as well as the corrupting person. Both hold stereotypes about the likelihood another person (from a specific country background) is likely to accept a bribe.
Using a widely accepted index from Transparency International on corruption in countries the experiment uses real payouts to test the probability that a person from country X is trying to bribe a person from country Y. Rather than a personal trait, the study finds that many persons become “conditionally corrupt”. This describes the behaviour to offer a bribe to a person occurs more often if you believe the probability that the person accepts corruption is high. Dorrough, Köbis et al. (Link publication) is cited in “nautilus” explaining this by, quote, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Additionally, the stereotypes on corruption prevalence leads people to act more on what they believe is common practice rather than what is the basic legal or ethical standard.
From behavioural ethics we know the urge of people to find justifications for their unethical behaviour to themselves or to others. This is called “justified ethicality”.
Following this rationale, it will be easier to accept a bribe, if the person originates from a high reputation of corruption. In order to correct for such bias due to stereotypes it is important to pursue corruption vigorously and, just as important, communicate a lot about this behavioural change so that stereotypes begin to change in the mindsets of other persons as well. There are many ways to Rome and some turn out to be quite long.