Less is best when it comes to transparency on corruption

Photo: Adán Sánchez de Pedro/Flickr

Does transparency reduce corruption, or does it merely reveal the price of the bribe? New research by UBC Psychology alumnus Michael Muthukrishna, former UBC Psychology Professor Joseph Henrich, and UBC Economics Professor Patrick Francois seeks to answer this question.

According to Dr. Muthukrishna, corruption is an inevitable outcome of our human tendency to cooperate.

Corruption is actually a form of cooperation rooted in our history, and easier to explain than a functioning, modern state. Modern states represent an unprecedented scale of cooperation that is always under threat by smaller scales of cooperation. What we call ‘corruption’ is a smaller scale of cooperation undermining a larger-scale,” Dr. Muthukrishna says.

Dr. Michael Muthukrishna

A commonly proposed solution to corruption is to increase transparency. However, Dr. Muthukrishna argues that transparency may not reduce corruption as one might expect – and can even make matters worse.

“In poorer countries, transparency can reinforce the norm that most people are engaging in corrupt behaviours… in these cases, transparency not only reveals that corruption is the normal behaviour, but solves a different problem. It’s not a question of ‘should I bribe’—transparency reveals the price of the bribe,” Dr. Muthukrishna explains.

Read the full news release here.

This news release was originally published by the London School of Economics and Political Science.