Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 84, Issue 3, pp 389–403 | Cite as

A Four-Country Study of the Associations Between Bribery and Unethical Actions

  • Richard A. Bernardi
  • Michael B. Witek
  • Michael R. Melton


The purpose of this research is to extend prior research testing the premise that small deviations from ethical behavior lead to even larger deviations from ethical behavior. This study examines the association between a person’s willingness to bribe a police officer to avoid being issued a speeding ticket with their views on inappropriate behavior of corporate executives. Our sample of 528 participants comes from Colombia (90), Ecuador (70), South Africa (131) and the United States (237). As part of our data gathering, we controlled for social desirability response bias in the responses of the students who participated in our study. Our data indicate significant differences between the views of the students from Colombia, Ecuador, and South Africa when compared to the views of the students from the United States. The analysis indicates that, for all four dilemmas, the most significant variable was the belief about how ethical it was to pay a bribe to avoid a traffic ticket. In addition, in three of our four dilemmas, Paulhus’ Impression Management Subscale, which measures social desirability response bias, was the second most significant variable. Finally, in three of the four dilemmas, the students from Colombia, Ecuador and South Africa thought the actions described in the dilemmas were less ethical than the students from the United States.


bribery social desirability response bias 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Bernardi
    • 1
  • Michael B. Witek
    • 1
  • Michael R. Melton
    • 1
  1. 1.Gabelli School of BusinessRoger Williams UniversityBristolU.S.A.

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