The Impact of corruption tolerance on the perception of corruption

Project: FDCRGP

Project Details

Grant Program

Faculty Development Competitive Research Grant Program 2018-2020

Project Description

Curbing corruption has been a priority for governments and international organizations for nearly two decades (Rose-Ackerman, 1999; Kaufmann et al., 2005). The purpose of the present research is to examine the underlying roots for the perception of corruption in Kazakhstani higher education institutions, identify good practices, and make a contribution to how the perception of corruption can be reduced. The literature (Rumyantseva, 2008) showed that corruption a) is incompatible with the culture of integrity and meritocracy that country’s political leadership wants to promote, b) is a major obstacle for the kind of scientific progress that can secure a country’s socio-economic development and prosperity and c) is a major determinant of political and other forms of corruption.
While the literature has discussed the types (Johnson, 2008), the perceived incidence (Heyneman et al., 2007) and the costs of corruption, it has generally equated subjective perception with objective reality and has failed to acknowledge that the policy solutions, such as salary increase (Altbach, 2013) that may reduce corruption may not reduce the perception of corruption.
The main objective of this research project is to analyze the perception of corruption in Kazakhstan, to acknowledge the discrepancy between facts (objective) and opinion (subjective), to show how subjective factors such as an individual’s tolerance for corruption and ethical values affect that person’s perception of corruption. Furthermore we plan to develop policy recommendations on how to ensure that a reduction in the (objective, real) level of corruption translates into a corresponding reduction in the level of perceived corruption.
Building on the work previously conducted by the team members (Pelizzo and Ang, 2008a; Pelizzo and Ang, 2008b; Pelizzo, Baris and Janenova, 2017) we plan to use the methodology devised by Mancuso (1995) and refined by Pelizzo and Ang (2008a, 2008b) to assess the ethical values of a sample of respondents, to map the ethical preferences of the individuals included in our survey analysis, to assess for each respondent the level of perceived corruption, and, most importantly, to show whether and to what extent the level of perceived corruption is a function of the ethical values and of the tolerance for corruption that one respondent has.
By showing that the perception of corruption reflects not only objective conditions but also subjective factors, we will provide a compelling reason for why subjective assessments of corruption levels have displayed little reliability and little validity in the past (Pelizzo, Baris and Janenova, 2017) and we will be able to propose better methodologies for estimating corruption levels across countries and over time.
Studies conducted in the course of the past two decades have shown that individuals, regardless of whether they are members of the political elite (Mancuso, 1995; Allen, 2008; Pelizzo and Ang, 2008) of public service (Bruce, 1994; Bruce, 1995; Bruce, 1998) or society at large have a wide range of often conflicting ethical attitudes and preferences. Studies conducted in this line of inquiry have consistently shown that ethical people, people with ethical values, are more productive (Bruce, 1994), that ethical people are less likely to engage in improper, unethical or corrupt conduct (Bruce, 1998), and that providing people with training on ethical issues is quite effective in reducing their risk that they will engage in improper conduct (Bruce, 1998).This evidence suggests that universities can promote good governance and contribute to fighting corruption by offering courses and modules on ethics and anti-corruption.
In addition to being an effective anti-corruption tool, ethical training provides students and individuals with better tools to understand what corruption is and is not, it affects the way they perceive reality and it helps them to distinguish facts from opinions.
Studies on corruption have shown that there is a second way in which universities can promote ethical values, the principles to good governance and integrity—that is by eradicating corruption and by providing students with a corruption-free environment where they can pursue their academic path and can be socialized in a culture of integrity. Students who experience or believe to have experienced corruption have greater tolerance for corruption, are more likely to consider corruption as an appropriate modus operandi, and are more likely to engage in unethical if not blatantly corrupt behavior in their post-graduate life. The key implication of these and related studies is that the reduction of perceived corruption and the provision of what students may regard as corruption-free academic settings has long term benefits and is a crucial step from preventing corruption in society at large.
But while this literature has argued that exposure to real or perceived corruption affect one individual’s tolerance for corruption, it has never considered that the perception of corruption in its turn is affected by an individual’s ethical values and tolerance for corruption.
We believe that this is a problematic gap in the literature as it discount’s the fact that an individual’s perception is affected by an individual perceptual filters. Yet the philosophy literature, from Husserl’s phenomenology to Popper’s critical rationalism, the political science literature, from the publication of The American Voter (Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes, 1960), and cognitive sciences from the 1950s onward have known that the perception is affected or mediated by subjective factors. A voter assesses a party position on the basis of her party identification Campbell et al., 1960), individuals have what Husserl called intentionality, that is their mind is not the tabula rasa that Bacon had believed it to be, but is actively or proactively exploring the environment in which it is in search for relevant information. In earlier studies one of the team members had shown how the perception of cartelization had been influenced that voters’ policy preferences and attitudes (Pelizzo, 2007). All these studies, from philosophy to political science, from psychology to cognitive sciences have consistenly shown that the human perception is mediated by subjective factors. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that the perception of corruption may also be affected by subjective factors and, more specifically, by respondents ethical values and attitudes.
Yet, none of the corruption studies have paid attention to the fact that the subjective perception of a social phenomenon, such as corruption, is to a smaller or to a greater extent affected by subjective factors such as an individual’s values, opinions, ideas, predispositions and culture. Hence, while the solutions proposed in the literature to fight corruption may in fact reduce the objective level of corruption, they may have little to no impact on the level of perceived corruption.
This is why this project could make a valuable contribution to reducing perceived corruption. By proposing a novel methodology to measure corruption and to identify its causes and correlates, we can formulate have a better sense of the determinants of perceived corruption, we can propose methodological recommendations to improve the existing perception-based measures of of corruption and to provide policy makers with some practical guidance as to how the perception of corruption could be reduced.
The project is significant for both academic and practical purposes. The project’s significance in academic terms is due to the fact that it is the first effort to investigate the subjective perception of corruption.
The project is also significant from a practical point of view. First, the project aims to provide evidence-based recommendations as to what can be done to reduce the perception of corruption in Kazakhstan. Second, by contributing to the reduction of perceived corruption, the project will contribute to promoting the principles of integrity, honesty and good governance in the country and provide a more solid foundation for sustainable growth and development in the years to come.
It has been documented that the beliefs, the belief-systems, the values and the choices of students who are directly exposed or who believe to be exposed to various types of corruption are deeply and possibly permanently affected by their exposure to real or perceived corruption (Rumyantseva, 2005).
Effective start/end date1/1/188/14/18


  • The Impact of corruption


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