Behavioural Insights for Public Integrity

Harnessing the Human Factor to Counter Corruption

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At the core of integrity is a human choice. Behavioural research reveals two determinants of integrity: the internal dynamics of how individuals make moral decisions and how these decisions are shaped and influenced by other people. This report describes how behavioural insights can help make integrity and anti-corruption policies more effective and efficient. It includes concrete policy applications and provides guidance for policy makers on how to use behavioural insights in designing integrity and anti-corruption policies.

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The dynamics of moral decision making

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.

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