Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 116, Issue 3, pp 529-552

First online:

Falling or Not Falling into Temptation? Multiple Faces of Temptation, Monetary Intelligence, and Unethical Intentions Across Gender

  • Thomas Li-Ping TangAffiliated withDepartment of Management and Marketing, Jennings A. Jones College of Business, Middle Tennessee State University Email author 
  • , Toto SutarsoAffiliated withDivision of Information Technology, Middle Tennessee State University

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We develop a theoretical model, explore the relationship between temptation (both reflective and formative) and unethical intentions by treating monetary intelligence (MI) as a mediator, and examine the direct (temptation to unethical intentions) and indirect (temptation to MI to unethical intentions) paths simultaneously based on multiple-wave panel data collected from 340 part-time employees and university (business) students. The positive indirect path suggested that yielding to temptation (e.g., high cognitive impairment and lack of self-control) led to poor MI (low stewardship behavior, but high cognitive meaning) that, in turn, led to high unethical intentions (theft, corruption, and deception). Our counterintuitive negative direct path revealed that those who controlled their temptation had high unethical intentions. Due to the multiple faces of temptation (the suppression effect), maliciously controlled temptation (low cognitive impairment and high self control) led to deviant intentions. Subsequent multi-group analysis across gender (a moderator) reformulated the mystery of temptation: a negative direct path for males, but a positive indirect path for females. For males, the negative direct path generated a dark impact on unethical intentions; for females, the positive indirect path did not, but offered great implications for consumer behavior. Both falling “and” not falling into temptation led to unethical intentions which varied across gender. Our counterintuitive, novel, and original theoretical, empirical, and practical contributions may spark curiosity and add new vocabulary to the conversation regarding temptation, money attitudes, consumer psychology, and business ethics.


Temptation (impulsive behavior, cognitive impairment, self-control, social moral value, and getting rich) Monetary intelligence (motive, stewardship, meaning) Deviant intentions (theft, corruption, deception) Reflective versus formative Gender Love of Money Evil Money Ethic Consumer psychology Theory of free will Business ethics Longitudinal