Carnegie Mellon University

Why Does Bribery Work?

February 12, 2019

Why Does Bribery Work?

A new study from Carnegie Mellon University suggests that greed, and not the willingness to return the favor, is the main reason people give in to bribery. But the research also finds there are times when the almighty buck can be ignored and effects of a bribe can be lessened.

The study indicates that when incentives are dependent on choices, people accept and reward bribes. On the other hand, when bribes are not contingent on delivering a certain outcome, they don't distort judgment nearly as much.

In the Carnegie Mellon experiment, pairs of participants wrote original jokes and submitted them to a judge, who was tasked with deciding which pun was the funniest. Joke-tellers could blindly submit bribes up to $5.

When judges were allowed to keep only one bribe, nearly 90 percent of them chose the joke that came with the most money. The better joke (as determined by independent evaluators) was selected just 60 percent of the time.

Read more