Compliance and ethical behaviour in organisations: knowledge, motivation and ability

Afbeelding van een tandrad met de termen ethics, honesty and integrity

What psychological factors contribute to whether companies comply with the law and behave ethically? What can regulators such as the Autoriteit Consument & Markt (ACM) do to enhance compliance and ethical behaviour? My research focuses on these two main questions.

Compliance has mostly been studied by researchers in the fields of law, economics, and governance. Our aim is to add a psychological lens to the research being done on the topic.

People often assume bad intentions when companies break the law. Of course, there are companies who knowingly and willingly break the law. However, we argue that there are many other factors that influence compliance. For example, people may not know or understand the law. They do what they do because it is the norm in their organisation or sector. Or they want to comply and behave ethically, but feel like they can’t, because of restraints such as company policy or lack of time.

In our studies we look at organisations’ intentions to follow both the letter of the law (compliance) and the spirit of the law (ethical behaviour). We are studying how knowledge of the law, motivation to comply with the law, and ability to comply with the law interact with each other and influence compliance with the letter and the spirit of the law. Additionally, we are testing social psychological interventions that regulators and supervisory authorities can use to enhance compliance and ethical behaviour.


This project is funded by the Spinoza prize Naomi Ellemers and Autoriteit Consument & Markt.


Supervisors UU

Supervisor ACM

  • Dr. Jessanne Mastop