picture credit to Daniel Iragorri-Carter

Nils Köbis

Hi!
I'm Nils, a Post-Doctoral researcher at CREED, Department of Economics, University of Amsterdam.

I am behavioral scientist working on corruption, (un-)ethical behavior, social norms and more recently artificial intelligence.

You can find more about my work below, on my CV, or via LinkedIn, Twitter, ResearchGate or GoogleScholar.

I am a co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network and together with Matthew Stephenson and Christopher Starke host the KickBack - Global AntiCorruption Podcast.


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Academic Publications

Precision in Context Theory: In a Seller’s Market, Precise Prices Are Suboptimal.
Management Science
with Margarita Leib, Marc Francke, Shaul Shalvi, & Marieke Roskes

Sex Differences in Mate Preferences Across 45 Countries: A Large-Scale Replication.
Psychological Science
with Katy Walter, Daniel Conroy-Beam, David Buss, Kelly Asao, Agnieszka Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski et al.
available here

Social norms of corruption in the field – Social nudges on posters can help to reduce bribery.
Behavioural Public Policy
with Marleen Troost, Cyril Brandt, & Ivan Soraperra
available here

Contrasting Computational Models of Mate Preference Integration Across 45 Countries.
Scientific Reports
with David Conroy-Bean, David Buss, Kelly, Agnieszka Sorokowska, Piotr et al.
available here

Intuitive Honesty Versus Dishonesty: Meta-Analytic Evidence.
Perspectives on Psychological Science
with Bruno Verschuere, Yoella Bereby-Meyer, David Rand and Shaul Shalvi
available here

Assortative mating and the evolution of desirability covariation.
Evolution and Human Behavior
with Daniel Conroy-Beam, James Roney, Aaron Lukaszewski, David Buss et al.
available here

A market for integrity An experiment on corruption in the education sector.
CREED working paper
with Ivan Soraperra,  Charles Efferson, Shaul Shalvi, Sonja Vogt and Theo Offerman
available here

Anti-corruption through a social norms lens.
U4 Policy Issue
with David Jackson,
available here

Taxing the brain to uncover lying? Meta-analyzing the effect of imposing cognitive load on the reaction-time costs of lying.
Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.
with Bruno Verschuere, Yoella Bereby-Meyer, David Rand and Shaul Shalvi
available here


The road to bribery and corruption: Slippery slope or steep cliff? 

Psychological Science
with
Jan-Willem Van Prooijen, Francesca Righetti and Paul Van Lange
available here

The Social Psychology of Corruption.
Dissertation at VU Amsterdam
available here


Prospection in individual and interpersonal corruption dilemmas.
Review of General Psychology
with Jan-Willem Van Prooijen, Francesca Righetti and Paul Van Lange
available here

A Social Psychological View on the Social Norms of Corruption.
Corruption and Norms -Why Informal Rules matter
with Daniel Iragorri-Carter and Chris Starke
available here

Ein Atlas zur Unterscheidung von Korruptionsformen.
Korruptionsbekämpfung vermitteln Didaktische, ethische und inhaltliche Aspekte in Lehre, Unterricht und Weiterbildung
with Oksana Huss
available here

“Who doesn’t?”—The impact of descriptive norms on corruption.
PloS One
with Jan-Willem Van Prooijen, Francesca Righetti and Paul Van Lange
available here

The Look Over Your Shoulder: Unethical Behaviour Decreases in the Physical Presence of Observers.
Working Paper
with  Simone van der Lingen, Terence. D. Dores Cruz, Jan-Willem Van Prooijen, Daniel Iragorri-Carter,  Francesca Righetti, Paul A.M. & Van Lange
available here

Money for microbes—Pathogen avoidance and out‐group helping behaviour.
International Journal of Psychology
with Michael Laakasuo, Jussi Palomäki, and Markus Jokela
available here

False consensus in situational judgment tests: What would others do? 

Journal of Research in Personality
with Janneke Oostrom, Richard Ronay, and Michael Cremers
available here

Cross-cultural differences in a global “survey of world views".
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
with Gerard Saucier , Kenner, J., Metaferia, H.  et al.
available here

Increasing Ethical Conduct: A Behavioral Ethics Approach.
Report for Dutch Tax Authority
with Shaul Shalvi, Suzanna Berg, Uri Gneezy, and Theo Offerman

Leaping into Corruption.
Scientific American
with Daniel Yudkin and Paul Van Lange
available here

The Role of Data: How Can Indicators Be Useful for Combating Corruption?
Conference Proceedings of Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Forum - How to conceptualize corruption?
available here

Why did the Panama Papers (not) shatter the world? The relationship between Journalism and Corruption.
Conference Proceedings How to research corruption? Conference Proceedings: Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Forum
with Chris Starke
available here

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Data

In the spirit of #openscience, data for the empirical studies are freely available on my Open Science Framework page

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Consulting and Policy Advice

I have become a member of the UNODC Education for Justice Expert Round-table that aims to foster tertiary education on anti-corruption. 


Transparency International has been kind enough to invite me to join Transparency International’s Anti-Corruption Solutions and Knowledge Network of Experts 

I have been invited to present my work at the Danish Foreign Ministry, the OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Risk Forum

I have also co-authored policy reports for the Dutch Tax Authority and the Anti-Corruption Resource Center (U4).

Together with Shaul Shalvi, Uri Gneezy and Theo Offerman I co-authored a report for the Dutch Tax Authority called Increasing Ethical Conduct: A Behavioral Ethics Approach.

Photo by Csongor Schmutc on Unsplash

Media

Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

Blog Posts

Cover of Social Psychology of Coruption Kristian Molberg

Social Psychology of Corruption

What are the social psychological forces of corruption? 
How do others shape what we think is right and wrong?  
Can we overcome societal challenges such as corruption by using behavioral insights? 

These are some of the questions that I have spent the last 8+ years thinking, exchanging, writing, talking and researching about. Below you can see what I have come up with so far... 

Some interim summaries

In 2012, a friend, Michael Laakasuo and I were discussing research ideas over a coffee. 
Inspired by game theory and interdependence theory, we started modelling games for Paul
Van Lange’s
expert workshop. We tweaked some aspects here, changed some parameters
there. After a second or third coffee, we re-examined what we came up with. 

“This is corruption” 

One of us said, looking at the game that I had drawn up. That is how corruption

came into my (academic) life. The fascination for the topic has not faded but has rather grown. After this initial coffee talk, I kept encountering corruption over and over again: in the
news, during conversations with friends, colleagues and taxi drivers or when reading
ostensibly unrelated literature.

So after more than five years of researching corruption and after having written my dissertation on the social psychology of corruption, I guess it is time to draw some interim conclusions and dare to spell out some of the main insights I have gained so far.

Corruption is an umbrella term that requires specification.

The word corruption is (often loosely) used to describe a wide array of phenomena. Academics, journalists and the public parlour use corruption to describe various behaviors ranging from bribery to embezzlement, from lobbyism to nepotism, from match-fixing to any type of misbehavior by political decision-makers. Researching, understanding and eventually curbing corruption requires closer differentiation. In my work I have introduced a distinction between individual and interpersonal form of corruption. From a psychological perspective it makes a big difference whether I abuse power alone (think of embezzlement) or in collaboration with others (like bribery). Together with Oksana Huss, I have worked on an Atlas of Corruption Types, for which you can find an illustration here.

The social element of corruption bears immense importance

My empirical work has extensively studied the social element of corruption and other forms of unethical behavior. My work on social norms of corruption examines the perceptions that people have about their social environment. These perceptions crucially shape the decision to engage in corruption. Social norms may also help to explain the vast differences in
corruption levels around the globe and provide a new lens for anti corruption
A recent meta-analysis that I conducted together with Shaul Shalvi, Bruno Verschuere, Yoella Bereby Meyer and David Rand shows that people are less intuitively inclined to break unethical rules when it directly harms others.

Corruption over time: steep cliff or slippery slope?

One question that has always fascinated me is how people end up engaging in behaviors that they deemed unimaginable in the past. In particular the work of Albert Bandura and Harald Welzer inspired me to put the slippery slope idea to a test when it comes to corruption. In these studies we find that severe forms of corruption rather emerge abruptly (“steep-cliff-effect”) than gradually (“slippery-slope-effect”). Here, people rather seem to leap into corruption than do so gradually. Although providing some first answers, some fascinating the questions remain to be answered: how does power corrupt over time? How do people gradually normalize corrupt practices? Pursuing answers to these questions still fascinates me.

Interdisciplinarity helps to understand corruption

interdisciplinary research exchange is invaluable to gain insights into the complex dynamics of corrupt behavior. Fortunate enough to meet amazing corruption researchers from other disciplines, we together founded the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network. Starting at the Volkshotel in Amsterdam in 2015, so far we have organized conferences dedicated to corruption research across disciplines on an annual basis.