Social Norms in Corruption: A Bribery Experiment

Alice Guerra, Tatyana Zhuravleva

Research output: Working paperResearch


This paper analyzes social norms in corruption by exploring whether engagement in bribery induces costly third-party punishment. By introducing third-party punishment in a bribery experiment we disentangle social norms from other non-normative motives ̶such as retaliation, negative reciprocity ̶maintained merely by parties involved in corruption. We manipulate two main characteristics of bribery: the private benefits gained by corrupt actors, and the negative externality generated by bribery on passive members of society. We find that third parties punish bribers more often than the bribed, but to a lesser extent. Greater private benefits induce third parties to punish more, whereas greater negative externalities have no impact on punishment choices. We unveil the role of emphatic anger as a microdeterminant of third-party punishment. We find gender differences in punishment behavior, with females being more willing to punish the bribed than males, but to a lesser amount.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSan Domenico di Fiesole
PublisherEuropean University Institute
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 2019
SeriesEUI Working Paper
NumberMWP 2019/07


  • Corruption
  • Third-party punishment
  • Experiment
  • Emphatic anger

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