Behavioural research and corruption: A new promise for governments?

AuthorLuca Di Donato
Date01 November 2018
Published date01 November 2018
Behavioural research and corruption: A new
promise for governments?
Luca Di Donato*
This essay explores the link between corruption and behavioural economics. The findings of
behavioural economics may widen the analysis of corruption and improve strategies to face it.
The first part describes bounded rationality theory, according to which human cognitive capacities
are not infinite and individuals are affected by behavioural biases and heuristics. The second part
focuses on specific biases, limitations and motivationssuch as misperception of risks, context, trust,
moral sentiments and othersthat can influence criminal behaviour. The third section illustrates how
these new behaviourally informed regulatory approaches can be integrated into the regulatory State.
Finally, the essay attempts to provide some suggestions for regulators, including some positive and
negative points about the behavioural approach.
Several fields within the sciencesbehavioural economics, cognitive science, neuroscience and othersexamine
human behaviour and their findings appear relevant to administrative law, because they can increase the level of
information about policies, providing an evidence base with which to develop good governance. The findings of
these sciences might provide valid support to face the socalled knowledge problem
evoking one of epistemic
which potentially affects all governmental decisions. Starting from this perspective, regulations need to be
and regulators should include the real world consequences in to regulatory interventions.
research has shown that people are not always rational and are subject to recurring cognitive biases in decision
making: people can be influenced by how data and information are presented; individual behaviour is greatly
influenced by other people's perceived behaviours; and so on.
The fundamental result is to widen regulators' points of view and improve policy design; with specific regard to
the case of corruption, anticorruption policies are more effective if they not only punish but also reduce
PhD candidate at Luiss Guido Carli University. I thank Alberto Alemanno, Francis Snyder, Maria Weimer, and all the participants at
the Conference New Directions in EU and Global Risk Regulationorganised at HEC, Paris (1920 June 2015) for their precious com-
ments on an earlier draft of this paper.
C.R. Sunstein, Choosing Not to Choose(2014) 64 Duke Law Journal,152, at 1.
F. von Hayek, Individualism and Economic Order (University of Chicago Press, 1948), at 78.
M. Adler and E.A. Posner, Happiness Research and CostBenefit Analysis, in E.A. Posner and C.R. Sunstein (eds.), Law and Happiness
(University of Chicago Press, 2010), 253292, at 254.
C.R. Sunstein, Paradoxes of the Regulatory State(1990) 57 University of Chicago Law Review, 407441, at 408.
DOI: 10.1111/eulj.12218
510 © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Eur Law J. 2018;

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