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Do bystanders react to bribery?

Alice Guerra and Tatyana Zhuravleva

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2021, vol. 185, issue C, 442-462

Abstract: Do individuals consider bribery as an acceptable behavior? We use a newly-designed game to study if—and under which conditions—bystanders are willing to express disapproval for bribing behavior through costly punishment. We manipulate two key dimensions: the benefits accrued by corrupt actors and the externality imposed on idle victims. We show that on average bystanders were unresponsive nearly half of the time they witnessed bribery. We also find that context specificity matters, as bystanders were more willing to punish when bribing caused them a disadvantageous inequity with respect to corrupt actors, even if bribing enhanced overall welfare. In an additional experiment testing whether social norms play any role in punishment decisions, we find that norms did not align with the observed bystanders’ behavior. This further supports our main result that bystanders did not react to bribery due to a concern for the social norm, but rather for their own comparative disadvantage relative to corrupt actors.

Keywords: Bribery; Third-party punishment; Social norms; Inequity aversion; Experimental economics (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C92 D62 D73 D91 K42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2021.03.008

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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