The Human in the Loop

[Author of box 16.2 is Leonid Polyakov, Ukraine]

Whatever the legislative and organisational framework, it is people who make up the defence establishment. The fundamental objective, therefore, of anti-corruption efforts in defence is to influence human behaviour: to promote professional and ethical behaviour and discourage the use of public office for private gain. Chapter two set out two approaches to doing that. The first dissuades corrupt action by increasing the moral cost or “moral burden” of corruption. The second aims to deter corruption by increasing the perceived risks, through a combination of increasing the probability of detection and increasing the probability of punishment. Three specific tools were introduced to help achieve these goals: building integrity, increasing transparency and improving accountability.

This chapter will expand on these approaches and tools. In considering how best to understand and influence the actions of particular individuals, it will consider the drivers of behaviour as well as the broader organisational contexts in which those drivers exert their influence. It will also consider how organisations can best reinforce positive ethical and professional behaviours, as well as discourage unethical behaviour. Finally, it will consider how to help shape the organisational environment in which individuals make ethical decisions.

Drivers of Human Behaviour

Behaviour encompasses all human actions or, in scientific terms “the combination of observable and describable responses of an agent to internal and external stimuli.” Ethical actions are a subset of overall behaviour. Behaviour can be conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, voluntary or involuntary, and include any externally visible action that a person can take like talking, moving and expressing emotion. Behaviour is conditioned both by internal drivers (within the person) and by the environment. Internal drivers include heredity, knowledge, personality, attitude, values, abilities and needs. Environmental drivers include social drivers (derived from other people), physical drivers (climate, topography, infrastructure, objects) and events.

Specific behaviours are humans’ effort to influence our environment to meet our needs. These needs are manifested in our consciousness as desires but described scientifically in both their conscious and unconscious forms as “drivers.” The consequences, both intentional and unintentional, of behaviours create feedback, either directly, through our perception that a need was (or was not) met, or through social cues – the messages we receive from other people. That feedback then becomes an external driver influencing subsequent behaviour. Feedback is reinforced through consistency and can be internalized, for example through the adoption of societal norms.

Behaviours often have unintended positive or negative consequences, which can be in relation to the need targeted, as well as tangential or completely separate areas. Perceiving feedback in these latter circumstances may be difficult, since the logical connection between the behaviour and the feedback may not be so obvious. For example, on receiving a prestigious award, a person may accurately perceive that it was the result of many hours of voluntary after-hours work. Yet the same person may not perceive that co-workers resent the award and fear the expectation that they, too, should put in unpaid overtime.

All needs are not created equal. In the mid-twentieth century, psychologist Abraham Maslow noted that certain needs, when unmet, are more powerful drivers of behaviour than others. When humans are thirsty, we look for water before we search for food; when hungry, the search for food overshadows concerns about job satisfaction; when feeling insecure (physically, emotionally, financially) we find it difficult to focus on realizing our full human potential through “self-actualisation.” Maslow suggested a five-layer “hierarchy of needs” in which it was essential to meet the needs of each lower layer before proceeding to higher ones. Once lower order needs are met, however, they lose relevance as drivers of behaviour and the person increasingly looks to meet higher order needs. Maslow’s hierarchy is still widely used today and is worth a closer look (see Figure 16.1 for a graphical representation). The hierarchy includes the following elements:


The need for oxygen, food, water and a relatively constant body temperature are the most compelling. This layer also includes the need to be active, to rest, to sleep, to eliminate wastes, to avoid pain and to have sex. If deprived of these needs, they take first place in a person’s search for satisfaction.


When immediate physiological needs are satisfied and no longer drive behaviour, the need for safety and security awakens. This includes protection of our physical bodies and our health, as well as the resources that we rely on to meet our physical needs into the future. These can include material resources like money and property, social resources like family and employment, or even a more general desire for structure, order and limits.

 ... For the full text of this chapter download the accompanying file below.


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