Deutsch: Korruption / Español: Corrupción / Português: Corrupção / Français: Corruption / Italiano: Corruzione

In the psychology context, corruption refers to the unethical or dishonest behavior by individuals who exploit their power or position for personal gain, often at the expense of others' rights or welfare. Psychological studies on corruption explore the motivations, cognitive biases, and social and environmental factors that contribute to corrupt behavior. This includes examining how individual differences, moral disengagement, rationalizations, and societal norms influence the likelihood of engaging in corruption.


Psychological research into corruption seeks to understand why some individuals engage in corrupt activities while others do not, under similar circumstances. Key concepts include:

  • Moral Disengagement: Mechanisms that allow individuals to rationalize corrupt behavior, making it seem acceptable or minimizing its perceived harm.
  • Cognitive Biases: How decision-making processes can be skewed by biases, leading to corrupt actions. This includes the influence of in-group favoritism, where individuals are more likely to engage in or overlook corruption within their own group.
  • Social Norms and Pressure: The role of societal expectations and peer pressure in facilitating or discouraging corruption. This includes how the perception of corruption as a widespread or normative behavior can lower personal inhibitions against engaging in such acts.

Application Areas

Understanding corruption from a psychological perspective has applications in various fields:

  • Organizational Psychology: Developing strategies to foster ethical behavior and reduce corruption within organizations, including corporate ethics programs and leadership training.
  • Public Policy and Governance: Informing anti-corruption measures and interventions by understanding the psychological underpinnings of corrupt behavior, aiming to create environments that discourage corruption and promote integrity.
  • Forensic and Legal Psychology: Assisting in the understanding and adjudication of corruption-related crimes by providing insights into the psychological factors that lead individuals to commit such acts.

Well-Known Examples

An example of the psychological approach to understanding corruption can be found in studies examining the "slippery slope" phenomenon, where small unethical decisions gradually lead to more significant corrupt acts over time, as individuals become desensitized to the moral implications of their actions.

Treatment and Risks

In the context of combating corruption, the "treatment" involves implementing measures that target the psychological mechanisms underlying corrupt behavior. This might include ethics training that emphasizes moral reflection, creating transparent systems that reduce opportunities for corruption, and promoting a culture of integrity within organizations and societies.

Similar Terms or Synonyms

  • Unethical behavior
  • Dishonesty


In psychology, corruption is understood as a complex phenomenon influenced by individual, cognitive, and social factors that lead to unethical behavior for personal or group gain. By exploring the psychological foundations of corrupt actions, researchers and practitioners aim to develop more effective strategies for preventing corruption and promoting ethical conduct across different spheres of society.


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