The Emergence and Dynamics of Corrupt Behavior: An Experimental Study Proposal

Last registered on May 13, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

The Emergence and Dynamics of Corrupt Behavior: An Experimental Study Proposal
Initial registration date
May 09, 2024

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
May 13, 2024, 12:39 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

University of California, Santa Cruz

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Universidad del Pacífico

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
This research proposal focuses on analyzing the emergence and dynamics of corrupt behavior in interactions that occur in a public goods and services provision environment. Unlike previous studies, where the roles of who is the (potential) corruptor and the framing of the possibility of corruption are rigid, our setting is more general and versatile for studying how corruption arises, initiates, and evolves over time.

Our experimental design is based on a linear public goods game, where participants are organized into groups of four and one is selected as the public official. Participants have the option to make resource transfers in private and public domains, and natural communication among players is allowed in the private domain.

This design allows us to examine how different variables and elements of the environment affect the generation and dynamics of corruption. In particular, we focus on studying how the combination of the possibility of private interaction and the unequal allocation of public resources (both intrinsic elements of modern societies) can contribute to the emergence of this phenomenon. We then explore how these corrupt or non-cooperative relationships evolve over time or with changes in interaction rules. Finally, we investigate the impact of various anti-corruption policies in this more realistic setting. Our central purpose is to contribute empirical evidence for a deeper understanding of the corruption phenomenon and to inform effective policies and mechanisms to prevent it.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Galarza Arellano, Francisco and Kristian López Vargas. 2024. "The Emergence and Dynamics of Corrupt Behavior: An Experimental Study Proposal." AEA RCT Registry. May 13.
Experimental Details


The study involves a linear public goods game where participants are organized into groups of four, with one randomly selected as the public official. Participants can make resource transfers in both private and public domains, and natural communication among players is allowed in the private domain.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Quantity of private transfers between participants, quantity of contributions to the public good, and the distribution of public resources by the public official.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experimental design involves a linear public goods game structured to explore the dynamics of corrupt behavior. In this setup, participants are grouped into quartets, where they interact under assigned roles with one acting as a public official. Each participant, including the public official, is given an initial endowment they can allocate to a public project or engage in private transactions. The game allows participants to communicate privately, providing a realistic setting to examine both overt and covert interactions.

This framework facilitates the examination of how individual actions in private settings influence collective outcomes in a public setting. Specifically, the design tests how private resource transfers and public contributions interplay, and how these behaviors affect the distribution of public goods by the official. The study’s public aspect emphasizes the interaction patterns and decision-making processes without revealing specific manipulative interventions used to provoke corrupt behaviors.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Participants were randomly assigned to different roles and treatment conditions using a computerized random number generator. This randomization ensures each participant has an equal chance of being placed in any of the roles, including that of the public official, thus preventing any biases.
Randomization Unit
Randomization was conducted at the individual level within each experimental session. Each participant was individually randomized to a specific role and to different treatment conditions to ensure the independence and integrity of the assignment process.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
100 baseline 1 (BL1), 100 baseline 2 (BL2), 100 treatment 1 (T1), 100 treatment 2 (T2), 100 treatment 3 (T3), 100 treatment 4 (T4), 100 treatment 5 (T5), 100 treatment 6 (T6), 100 treatment 7 (T7)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number