• A study reveals that the majority tendency is to act ethically.
  • It also shows the effectiveness of the threat of possible punishment when it comes to curbing corrupt attitudes.
  • "It is not the violation of an ethical norm that triggers emotional activity, but the real decision to act against one's monetary interest."
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A study carried out by researchers from the Universitat Jaume I reveals that the decision before a proposal of bribery causes a greater physiological excitement in those who decide to act against their own economic interest and reject it than in those who choose to accept it.

As reported by academic sources, the results of the study on physiological and behavioral aspects of corruption developed by UJI researchers also reveals a tendency to act ethically and shows the effectiveness of the threat of a possible punishment at the time of stopping corrupt attitudes.

They have analyzed, through a polygraph, the behavior and emotional reactions of people

"Contrary to what one has tended to believe, it is not the violation or breach of an ethical norm that triggers the emotional activity, but rather the real decision to act against one's monetary interest," Tarek Jaber explained. López, researcher of the Experimental and Computational Economics group of the UJI.

He added that this work has allowed an approach to the phenomenon of corruption from the experimental methodology and for this an experiment was designed that allowed them to analyze, through a polygraph, the behavior and the emotional reactions of people in front of a situation that can lead to corrupt decisions.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience , shows how some subjects maintain a "pro-social" behavior, rejecting corruption, even when there is no punishment mechanism. When the possibility of punishment arises , the rejection of bribery becomes the majority.

Hypothetical auction of public works

In the study, the experimental subjects faced a hypothetical auction in which two companies competed for the license of some public works , for which they made their bids of quality levels, and could also introduce bribes for the auctioneer that the company had to choose that would finally carry out the works.

The subjects who decided as a company faced a social dilemma, "since the higher the payment for the auctioneer , the greater the likelihood that the latter would grant them the license to maximize their benefits".

However, this option implied a cost, since the reduction in quality meant a reduction in the benefit of all those involved in the auction , which would be identified with the negative consequences of corruption in society.

People seem to reveal intrinsic values ​​that hold them back against corrupt temptations

"Although the foundations of economic theory predict a purely rational behavior and in search of personal economic benefit, the results show that people seem to reveal intrinsic values ​​that hold them back against corrupt temptations", said Aurora García-Gallego , co-author of the work and member of the research team.

For the researcher, "both companies and public officials deviate from the strategy that maximizes their monetary benefit and opt for a more pro-social strategy".

During the decision making, the researchers measured the physiological reactions of the subjects through the intensity of emotions using the polygraph as a tool, to detect variations in sweating and emotional arousal.

The results suggest that people who make decisions challenging their own economic interest suffer greater excitement than those who care only about their personal economic benefit, added the researcher of the group and coauthor of the article Nikolaos Georgantzís.

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