U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre

This Anti-Corruption Helpdesk brief was produced in response to a query from a U4 Partner Agency. The U4 Helpdesk is operated by Transparency International in collaboration with the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute.


What research has been carried out about social norms and corruption? I am interested in research into any norms that may influence people’s propensity to engage in or on the contrary resist (and/or to report) corrupt transactions. Research on East Africa would be particularly welcome but please do also flag any relevant research from elsewhere.


1. Overview
2. What is the impact of social norms on corruption
and anti-corruption?
3. Changing corrupt behaviour through influencing
social norms
4. Further reading


Social norms are normally understood as shared understandings on accepted forms of behaviour. There is a breadth of research on the topic of social norms and corruption, but results are mixed. Some studies emphasise the correlation between norms and the propensity to engage in corrupt behaviour, while others argue that the evidence is inconclusive and that other factors are equally, if not more, important in determining levels of and propensity to corruption.
As social norms can have an impact on people’s attitudes and actions, some anti-corruption initiatives have taken on the challenge of leveraging them – either by appealing to existing social norms or attempting to create new ones – in order to change corrupt behaviour. An illustrative selection of documented examples from the East Africa region as well as other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa helps elucidate how this can be done.


Samira Lindner, Transparency International, [email protected]


Marie Chêne, Transparency International




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