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Collectivism and size drive unethical behaviour

In the latest “Arming the Donkeys” podcast academics Nina Mazar and Dan Ariely discuss perceptions of cultures of bribery and speculate as to why they exist. 

Academic research which asked managers which countries and companies were most likely to offer bribes showed some important differentiators.

One key factor is whether citizens in that country are collectivist or more independently-minded.

Research suggest there is a high correlation between collectivism and bribery.

So if people who are part of a bigger groups are more likely to bribe: Why is this?

Mazar suggests this is because in larger, closer knit groups, people feel less responsible for their actions.

She calls it “diffusion of responsibility”.

It sounds very logical. I suppose it may provide some commentators with two thoughts:

1) Individually-minded capitalist societies create less tendency to bribe.

2) Large companies end up being less responsible because of the diffusion problem. This is not intentional, but the price of size.

Whatever your views on all this, it’s an interesting eight minute podcast.

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