Feelings, Brain and Prevention of Corruption

Abstract (Via SSRN)

In this paper we propose an answer for the question: why, sometimes, people don’t perceive corruption as a crime? To answer this question we use a neurological and a psychological concept. As humans, we experience our emotions and feelings in first person, but the neuropsychological mechanism known as “mirror neurons” makes possible to simulate emotions and feelings of others. It means that our emotions and feelings are linked with emotions and feelings of others. When mirror areas in the brain are activated we can understand and simulate in first person the actions, emotions and feelings of people. Because of these areas, the observer’s brain acts “as if” it was experiencing the same action or the same feeling that is perceived. Each organism establishes causal relations to understand, manipulate and move in the world. Causal relations can be classified as simple or complex. In a simple causal relation, cause and effect are close in space and time. When cause and effect are not close in space and time, the causal relation is complex. When perceiving or committing homicide, a simple causal relation is enough for identifying a victim, but when perceiving or committing a public corruption crime, a complex causal relation must be established for identifying a victim. When seeing someone committing bribe there is no an evident victim. If persons can’t identify victims of public corruption crimes, then they will not generate empathy feelings. When a victim is not identified and perceived, there is no reason for thinking that harm is being inflicted and mirror areas in the brain are not activated.

Introduction (Via SSRN)

In order to understand the reasoning of the present argument it is enough to state clear that the brain is made up of neurons that intertwine in terminations labeled as axons. Communication between neurons takes place due to an electrochemical reaction, in such way that a neuron is able to send information to a nearby neuron in a circuit scheme. When this happens, some chemical substances are released, in a process known as synapse. A synaptic network is that made up of connected neurons that are communicating information. Not all the neurons in the brain are strict and directly connected; some areas that specialize in specific tasks and conducts, concentrate a larger part of synaptic connections. It is necessary that every area is functioning appropriately in order for the brain to work. A closer exam of this process has led to the identification of the neurological origin of several conducts, emotions and feelings that define our every-day life, such as fear, aggressiveness, and sexual desire, among others.

Favorite Excerpts (Via SSRN)

Currently, behaviors that clearly obey instinct are frequently omitted from research programs in social sciences. For instance, in economics, it is usually supposed that individual and social decisions can only be explained through rationality. In sociology, for example, Rubio (2007) has shown how sexual behavior has been omitted as a useful variable to understand the enrollment of youngsters in gangs and prostitution, and has been substituted by variables of economic and labor rationale which prove to be fairly incoherent with the actual behavior of the teenagers. Other instinctive behaviors and biological variables such as couple selection, struggle for scarce resources or the origin of aggression, are also excluded from studies regarding violence in which they fit perfectly
(Rubio & Salcedo-Albarán, 2006; Salcedo-Albarán, 2004).

Corruption can be described as a rational behavior, when it is analyzed from an economic perspective. Anyone who commits an act of corruption is a rational agent who breaks certain rules with the object of maximizing his short, medium and long term benefits and, at the same time, minimizing the probability of being detected and prosecuted (Klitgaard et al. 2001; Salcedo-Albaran et al. 2007).

Only people trained in identifying and proposing long and complex causal chains have the ability to understand the concrete negative consequences spawned by acts of corruption. This shows that rational argumentation against public corruption has a low chance of increasing crime prevention. People protect goods and properties that are near in time and space. Opposite to this condition, “public budget” is an object whose property, as result of taxation, can only be established through complex reflections on causality. Establishing a clear sense of belonging to an abstract object demands some rather intricate intellectual constructions.

Findings (Via SSRN)

Few marketing strategies use arguments or logic explanations to convince potential buyers. Likewise, through the control of visual and auditory perceptions, thus controlling desire, market experts exploit the field of “whims”. We commonly talk about “desires” that can’t be altered by arguments. It is only through this strategy that people can be convinced of buying things they don’t need, sometimes, with money they don’t have.

We can think that if publicity and marketing have been able to manipulate emotions with the purpose of creating shopping impulses and “desires”, that manipulation could also be used to generate emotions with the purpose of deterring people from committing crimes. In the specific case of corruption it would seem useful (i) to present the concrete victims that suffer the final consequences and (ii) to show the causal links that tie a present act of corruption with its victims.

If it is possible to recognize the causal links between acts of corruption and its negative consequences, then it is possible to identify corruption as any other crime that disrupts the economic, social and political order, consequently disturbing the general welfare. If we can present how a “harmless” act of corruption such as the mishandling of resources destined for health or the favoring of certain people in contracts, can increase the probability of other people being hurt or even dead, then these acts will begin to be socially acknowledged as a crime.

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06. February 2010 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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