Verbal Operants of Corruption: A Study of Avoidance in Corruption Behavior

Tete Kobla Agbota, Ingunn Sandaker, Gunnar Ree


Corruption is illegal and universally shameful. Persons who engage in corrupt practices tend to be discreet. This study offers an analysis of metaphors in corruption language based on positive and avoidance contingencies of reinforcement. Our data show that parties to corrupt practices use expressions that accentuate this discreet behavior, whether demanding or offering bribes. Our findings indicate that corruption language can be topographically similar to other verbal utterances, but functionally different when understood in context. Both officials and clients use metaphors to avoid prosecution and social embarrassment. The verbal behavior of the public servant is positively reinforced because he gets a bribe, and the verbal behavior of the client is positively reinforced because he/she receives service or favorable answer to application promptly. However, the payment of money denotes punishment.


avoidance; corruption; Ghana, corruption; metaphors, disguised mands, positive reinforcement

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility