Corruption in the context of moral trade-offs

James Dungan*, Adam Waytz, Liane Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Moral psychology has begun to characterize the circumstances that lead people to commit moral violations. However, the decision to engage in corrupt behaviour may not always reflect a choice between right and wrong. Rather, the decision may represent a trade-off between competing moral concerns (for example, being fair and impartial to all versus loyal to one's own group). Taking the tension between fairness and loyalty as a case study, we demonstrate that the way people make trade-offs between competing moral norms predicts morally relevant behaviour, such as decisions to blow the whistle on unethical acts. We then suggest that this tension reflects a deeper distinction within our moral psychology, namely, a distinction between group-based norms (for example, loyalty) and norms that apply universally, independent of group membership (for example, fairness). Finally, we discuss what factors may influence the adoption of group-based versus groupindependent norms and therefore, how these factors might deter or promote corruption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-118
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Interdisciplinary Economics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Corruption
  • Fairness
  • Hypocrisy
  • Loyalty
  • Whistle-blowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


Dive into the research topics of 'Corruption in the context of moral trade-offs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this