A recent shocking study from behavioural economists, Simon Gächter of the University of Nottingham in England and Jonathan Schulz of Yale University, shows a direct correlation between a dishonest government and its influence on its citizens. Their revelatory study proves that an infected government can indeed change the way its population is shaped morally and ethically.
In the provocative experiment carried out between 2011 and 2014, 2,568 participants from 23 nations were all asked to throw a pair of dice. Participants were then paid proportionately to the amount of the first die thrown and were asked not to share the amount of the second die rolled. If the number 6 occurred they were paid nothing. The catch – participants were allowed to lie about the outcome.
In one of the more shocking outcomes, participants from countries such as Georgia, Tanzania, Guatemala and Kenya were the least likely to give truthful outcomes whereas participants from countries such as Austria, the U.K., the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany were most likely to be answer honestly. This is the first time such a study has been undertaken and proves that a simple test can have real world implications. The average age of the participants was 21, an age group specifically chosen for being old enough to have been influenced by the norms of their society, but more importantly too young to have contributed to the corruption of their government. While this may seem like a bleak view of humanity, we can be encouraged by the fact that the researchers found a limit to the dishonesty of participants; people were more expected to merely tweak the outcome by reporting the highest number rolled rather than lying about the result outright.
Of the study Schulz said, “All around the world people are quite honest,” they tend to act according to “justifiable dishonesty,” but the benchmark of what is justifiable seems to vary slightly according to the level of corruption in one’s homeland. But what remains unanswered by the findings of this study is if those who were more likely to fix the results were doing so, not due to the influence of a corrupt government, but in fact due to the financial incentive. Is this the real reason behind their dishonesty?
The study proves that whilst lying and corruption is complicit in countries with lower socioeconomic standards, there is a real possibility of positive change if we address the younger generations as opposed to trying to change the corrupt institutions themselves.