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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the fresh is weak. (Matthew 26: 41).

  2. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away (Matthew 13: 12).

  3. We do not discuss students’ second 48-item temptation scale, completed about 10–12 weeks apart (Cronbach’s α = .85), in this paper.

  4. Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die!” (Genesis 3: 1–4)

  5. The man relied, “The woman who you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” The Lord God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” (Genesis 3: 12–13).

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Acknowledgments

The first author would like to thank Dean E. James Burton, Jennings A. Jones College of Business, at Middle Tennessee State University for providing a Summer Research Grant in 2012, Editor-in-Chief Alex Michalos and an anonymous reviewer for their suggestions, Late Fr. Wiatt A. Funk, Fr. Mark Sappenfield (St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church), and Fr. Dave Heney (St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church, Thousand Oaks, CA) for their inspiration, and Jingqiu Chen, Albert Ming-Dar Wu, and John Lipinski for their comments, encouragement, and insight.

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Appendix

Appendix

The temptation scale
Antecedents of temptation
 Factor 1: Impulsive/spontaneous behavior
  1. Temptations provoke us to think and act irrationally.
  2. Temptations motivate us to behave spontaneously and impulsively.
  3. Temptations persuade us to follow our feelings and hearts at the moment and take action right away.
 Factor 2: Cognitive impairment
  4. Temptations corrupt us and cause us to make inappropriate decisions.
  5. Temptations control our thoughts and behaviors and prevent us from concentrating on anything else.
  6. Temptations make us feel weak physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
 Factor 3: Lack of self-control
  7. Temptations prevent us from thinking clearly about goals, ideals, and plans.
  8. Temptations weaken the control of our emotions, desires, urges, or itch.
  9. Temptations cause us to lose track of our own behaviors.
 Factor 4: Social moral values
  10. Temptations persuade our role models (stars/CEOs) with status and power to “cave in” to them.
  11. Temptations are easier to accept when our friends and peers are doing them.
  12. Temptations presented positively (the Ten Commandments, honor code) reduce cheating and lying.
 Factor 5: Getting rich
  13. Temptations are more prominent to those who want to get rich.
  14. Temptations are more salient (important) to those who have a high love-of-money orientation.
  15. Temptations are more powerful to those who want to take risks.
Consequences of temptation—A (reflective vs. formative)
 16. Temptations provoke us to become selfish and ignore others’ needs, rights, and concerns.
 17. Temptations stimulate us to get carried away and overlook (ignore) all other important matters.
Consequences of temptation—B (SEM model)
 18. Temptations lead us to foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
 19. Temptations corrupt our moral beliefs or ethical standards.
Monetary intelligence
Affective motive of money
 Rich
  1. I want to be rich.
  2. It would be nice to be rich.
  3. Having a lot of money (being rich) is good.
 Motivator
  4. Money reinforces me to work harder.
  5. I am motivated to work hard for money.
  6. I am highly motivated by money.
 Importance
  7. Money is valuable.
  8. Money is important.
  9. Money is good.
The behavioral stewardship of money
 Make money
  10. I find smarter and better ways of making money.
  11. I look for new and legal ways to make money.
  12. I am proud of my ability to make money.
 Budget money
  13. I budget my money very well.
  14. I use my money very carefully.
  15. I am proud of my ability to save money.
 Donate money to charity
  16. I give generously to charitable organizations.
  17. I believe in charitable giving.
  18. I give money to the church (religious organization(s)).
Cognitive meaning of money
 Respect
  19. Money makes people respect me in the community.
  20. Money helps me gain respect.
  21. Money allows me to express myself.
 Achievement
  22. Money represents my achievement.
  23. Money is a symbol of my success.
  24. Money reflects my accomplishments.
 Power
  25. Money is power.
  26. Money gives one considerable power.
  27. Money controls and manipulates your behavior when you are paid.
 Contribute—the Matthew effect
  28. More money should be paid to people with higher quality of performance.
  29. More money should be paid to people with more talent.
  30. More money should be paid to people with higher merit (performance).
Machiavellianism
1. The best way to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear.
2. It is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there.
3. Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so.
4. It is safest to assume that all people have a vicious streak and it will come out when they are given a chance.
Unethical behavior intentions (PUB)
Theft
 1. Borrow $20 from a cash register overnight without asking.
 2. Take merchandise and/or cash home.
 3. Give merchandise away to personal friends (no charge to the customers).
Corrupt Intent
 4. Abuse the company expense accounts and falsify accounting records.
 5. Receive gifts, money, and loans (bribery) from others due to one’s position and power.
 6. Lay off employees to save the company money and increase one’s personal bonus.
Deception
 7. Overcharge customers to increase sales and to earn higher bonus.
 8. Give customers “discounts” first and then secretively charge them more money later (bait and switch).
 9. Make more money by deliberately not letting clients know about their benefits.

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Tang, T.LP., Sutarso, T. Falling or Not Falling into Temptation? Multiple Faces of Temptation, Monetary Intelligence, and Unethical Intentions Across Gender. J Bus Ethics 116, 529–552 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1475-3

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Keywords

  • 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