A new scholarly study has looked into the collaborative roots of corruption, and the results may come as a surprise…
New research from Nottingham University suggests that collaboration encourages corrupt behaviour.
“Collaborative settings, not just greed, can provide fertile ground for corruption, as typified by recent scandals in the football and banking worlds. But while much is known about individual immoral behaviour, little is known about the collaborative roots of corruption,” researcher Dr. Ori Weisel said in a statement.
Weisel and his team focused on cases where working together meant violating moral rules, by lying, at a possible cost to the larger group, or the organisation to which they belong.
For the study, researchers created a die-rolling game in which study participants could adhere to one of two competing moral norms: collaborate or be honest. In the main experiment, the outcomes of the two players are perfectly aligned.
“Humans are an exceptionally cooperative species, which is at least partly driven by deeply ingrained moral sentiments that help to build trust and achieve mutual beneficial outcomes. However there can be tension between two fundamental moral obligations — to tell the truth or to join forces in collaboration,” said Weisel, a research fellow who specialises in group cooperation and decision-making.
Researchers found that the highest levels of corrupt collaboration occurred when parties shared profits equally, and were reduced when either player’s incentive to lie was decreased or removed.
Weisel said the findings support the view that collaboration might have been a liberating effect, freeing people to behave unethically.
The researchers suggest that organisations may be paying a (corruption) premium for having their employees team-up and work together.
“From the point of view of an organisation seeking to reduce corrupt behaviour, assuring a decent base salary that does not depend on performance can reduce the likelihood that its employees engage in brazen lying,” Weisel added.