Table of Contents

  • Integrity is more than a rational choice against corruption. Essentially, promoting integrity is encouraging behaviour in the public interest over self-serving behaviour such as corrupt and unethical practices. Yet, human behaviour is often a neglected dimension in integrity policy making. Existing efforts to preventing corruption are still widely based on a rational decision-making model. Such an approach usually stresses the importance of increasing the costs and lowering the benefits of undesired behaviour. Common policy recommendations derived from this include control and sanctions, and reducing the discretion of decision makers in order to diminish their scope for misbehaviour. Sometimes, this has led to over-regulation, the establishment of paralysing controls, and distrust in the public administration.

  • Human behaviour is often a neglected dimension in integrity policy making. Traditionally, efforts to prevent corruption have been based on a rational decision-making model. This has led to policy recommendations that favour applying control and sanctions, and reducing the discretion of decision makers in order to diminish their scope for misbehaviour.

  • Public integrity systems aim to generate decisions by public officials that align with the public interest. As a consequence, many integrity policies seek to directly or indirectly guide and govern human choices or behaviour. In spite of this, the behavioural perspective is still neglected in integrity policy making. Researcher in various scientific fields (including psychology, neuroscience, sociology and economics) on human cognition and behaviour has produced findings that offer valuable lessons and new perspectives. As a result, policy makers worldwide are increasingly applying behavioural insights to other areas of public policy (Economist, 2017); (European Commission, 2016); (OECD, 2017); (World Bank, 2015).

  • Integrity policies are often based on the understanding that people will exploit an opportunity for misconduct whenever its profits are worth risking potential negative consequence. In other words, individuals are assumed to weigh the probability of getting caught (i.e. the strictness of internal and external control and detection mechanisms) and the ensuing sanctions against the undue gain they could obtain through action or inaction. The policy implications of such a view involve a high level of monitoring and enforcement. However, in everyday life, morality is often perceived in terms of character traits. When confronted with an integrity-related choice, it is assumed that a person will consult his or her own personal values and act in accordance with them. Indeed, corrupt behaviour is often interpreted as an extension of the “bad character” of those involved.

  • Moral choices are not taken in isolation. Human decisions are often driven by social motives such as loyalty, trust building, returning favours or helping someone out of a tricky situation. People take decisions in their own best interest, but they also care what others think or do. Social motives can work in favour of integrity, but they can also function as reasons for corrupt decisions. Understanding why humans as social decision makers are swayed by their own preferences, as well as those of others, can provide insights into why and how integrity policies work or fail.

  • Research on human behaviour and moral decisions provides an inspiring perspective on integrity policies. invites policy makers to explore how behavioural insights can help shape the design of modern integrity policies.

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