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52 Conn. L. Rev. 1121 (2020-2021)
How People Judge Institutional Corruption

handle is hein.journals/conlr52 and id is 1148 raw text is: CONNECTICUT

VOLUME 52                   FEBRUARY 2021                     NUMBER 3
How People Judge Institutional Corruption
Institutional corruption refers to actions that are legal yet carry negative
consequences for the greater good. Such legal yet harmful behaviors have been
observed among politicians and donors who establish quid-pro-quo relationships
in exchange for money and among doctors who receive gifts from pharmaceutical
companies in return for recommending the companies' drugs. How does the
general public reconcile the tension between the legal status of an action and its
impact on the greater good and judge the action's moral acceptability? We
explored this question empirically by comparing the relative weight people give to
the legal status of actions and to the impact of actions when judging moral
acceptability. Results show that people unequivocally rely on legal status and
ignore the impact of the actions. We conclude that people outsource their moral
judgments to the law. The law does not simply reflect people's sense of corruption
but determines it. Together, our research suggests a surprising and ironic role for
the law: that it diminishes independent, critical thinking.


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