Understanding Social Norms: A Reference Guide for Policy and Practice

Social Norms and Corruption

By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Diana Chigas


A product of the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Program, this Reference Guide is a comprehensive exploration of the role social norms play in endemic corruption in fragile states.

The Guide provides practical guidance on what social norms are

Social norms are the mutual expectations held by members of a group about the right way to behave in a particular situation.

The Guide explains why they should matter to anyone working to diminish corruption in fragile and conflict-affected states. Even if all the other aspects of a robust integrity system are in place, the system of corruption will endure if the social norms affecting people’s decisions to engage corruption are not addressed. Social norms are often more influential than personal attitudes and even morals when it comes to decisions around how to act.

The Guide describes how social norms influence corruption in these contexts

People around the word have an innate desire to fit in; this allows the group to exert pressure through social rewards and punishments.

We have also created a series of short guides to provide condensed versions of the reference guide. Refer to our first and second guide.