Previous research has suggested that bribery is more normative in some countries than in others. To understand the underlying process, this paper examines the effects of social norm and gender on bribe-giving behavior. We argue that social norms provide information for strategic planning and impression management, and thus would impact participants’ bribe amount. Besides, males are more agentic and focus more on impression management than females. We predicted that males would defy the norm in order to win when the amount of their bribe was kept private, but would conform to the norm when it was made public. To test this hypothesis, we conducted two studies using a competitive game. In each game, we asked three participants to compete in five rounds of creative tasks, and the winner was determined by a referee’s subjective judgment of the participants’ performance on the tasks. Participants were allowed to give bribes to the referee. Bribe-giving norms were manipulated in two domains: norm level (high vs. low) and norm context (private vs. public), in order to investigate the influence of informational and affiliational needs. Studies 1 and 2 consistently showed that individuals conformed to the norm level of bribe-giving while maintaining a relative advantage for economic benefit. Study 2 found that males gave larger bribes in the private context than in the public, whereas females gave smaller bribes in both contexts. We used a latent growth curve model (LGCM) to depict the development of bribe-giving behaviors during five rounds of competition. The results showed that gender, creative performance, and norm level all influence the trajectory of bribe-giving behavior.
Lan, T., & Hong, Y. Y. (2017). Norm, gender, and bribe-giving: Insights from a behavioral game. PLoS ONE, 12(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0189995