It's better to give than to receive: Psychological need satisfaction mediating links between wasta (favouritism) and individuals’ psychological distress

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Wasta (i.e. the distribution of favours among family, friends and tribe; favouritism; nepotism) permeates numerous Middle Eastern cultures, representing a method of strengthening social ties and showing loyalty/generosity, but also representing one of the largest sources of corruption in Middle East. The current study investigated links between wasta and psychological distress in a survey of 1088 educators from Saudi Arabia. Drawing from the self-determination theory (SDT) conceptual framework, Structural Equation Modeling analyses suggested that benefitting from wasta was linked to higher levels of psychological distress and those links were explained in part (i.e. mediated) by lower levels of autonomy, competency and relatedness. In contrast, providing wasta was associated with higher levels of need satisfaction and correspondingly lower levels of distress. Implications are discussed in terms of the SDT, discrimination and helping behaviour literatures.

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