The development of a morality against power abuse: The case of bribery.

Bolivar Reyes Jaquez, Melissa A. Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In three experiments, we presented children and adults with opportunities to condemn acts resembling bribery, a prevalent form of power abuse. Adults and children (N = 333) in the United States rated the acceptability of actions by contest judges. Judges used their position in a self-serving (e.g., accepted or requested gifts from contestants prior to picking winners) versus responsible (e.g., rejected gifts, accepted gifts after judging) way. Across experiments, children by age 10 gave harsher ratings to judges who accepted or requested gifts prior to selecting the contest winners. Further, children expected judges to become biased (Experiment 1) and secretive (Experiment 2) if they accepted gifts during the contest. Children’s judgments were influenced by characters’ authority level (Experiment 3) and varied as a function of age and modality of assessment (e.g., whether gifts were accepted vs. rejected). Taken together, these results constitute evidence that by late childhood people showcase an emerging moral stance against unethical actions linked to authority-based corruption. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Early online dateJun 10 2021
StatePublished - Jun 10 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • authority
  • bribery
  • decision making
  • fairness
  • moral development

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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