Corrupt societies encourage lying

Corrupt societies encourage lying

first_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country When do we decide it’s OK to tell a lie? Perhaps when we see people in positions of power doing the same. A new study finds that individuals are more likely to lie if they live in a country with high levels of institutional corruption and fraud—suggesting that poorly run institutions hurt society in more ways than previously suspected.Past research has shown that people are more likely to break the rules if those around them are also doing so. For instance, people surrounded by graffiti and litter are more likely to drop trash themselves. “But what we really don’t know is to what extent societal norms like political fraud, corruption, and tax evasion trickle down—and to what extent such societal norms corrupt individuals,” says Shaul Shalvi, a behavioral scientist at the University of Amsterdam who was not involved in the work.To find out, researchers pulled data on government corruption, tax evasion, and election fraud from the World Bank and Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization that researches democracy and political freedom, for 159 countries. They combined these rates into an index that measured institutionalized rule-breaking. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Email Then, over the course of almost 5 years, they traveled to 23 of those countries to measure honesty at the individual level. They asked college-aged volunteers to roll a die and report the number that came up. The higher the number, the more the researchers paid the participants—but participants knew the experimenters couldn’t see the results of their rolls. When the average number of the reported die rolls from all the participants in one country turned out to be greater than expected by chance, the researchers knew that some people were lying to get more money. When they compared these rates with institutionalized rule-breaking, they found that people in countries with higher levels of rule-breaking were more likely to cheat on the task, they report today in Nature. Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe But when people lied, they rarely did so to the fullest extent possible. Rolling a five would win participants the maximum payout, because a six was worth nothing. But rather than just reporting that they had rolled a five, they were more likely to report only modestly inflated values like threes and fours. “Even faced with these temptations, people still care about feeling honest,” Shalvi says. “That’s why people lie only to the extent that they can justify their lies.”Jonathan Schulz, an experimental economist at Yale University who co-authored the study, refers to this phenomenon as “justified cheating”—a way to benefit while still feeling like a somewhat honest person. What people justify as honest seems to vary according to their environment, Schulz says. “It seems that people benchmark their dishonesty with what they’re surrounded by in their daily life.”The countries with the lowest rates of cheating tended to be well-off western European ones—Austria, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom scored particularly low. On the other hand, Morocco, Tanzania, and Kenya scored among the highest.Financial instability might help explain why cheating is more prevalent in certain countries, other researchers say. “If everyone around you is poor or desperate and scrambling for the next dollar, you might think that what matters is money, not adhering to high-minded rules,” says David Hugh-Jones, an experimental economist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K., who was not involved in the work. However, he cautions that using just one measure of honesty could skew results. For instance, gambling (as participants were asked to do here) is taboo in some societies. That could impact their choices on the task in ways unrelated to their intrinsic honesty.While Schulz acknowledges that it’s tempting to conclude from the data that people in certain countries are intrinsically less honest, he instead sees cross-cultural commonality. “Even in the most corrupt countries, people are not blatantly dishonest,” he says.  “People are concerned about this self-image of being an honest person.”last_img

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