Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-2qt69 Total loading time: 0.462 Render date: 2022-08-09T21:35:13.591Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

“Why are the Corrupt, Corrupt?”: The Multilevel Analytical Model of Corruption

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2020

João Gabriel Modesto*
Centro Universitário de Brasília (Brazil) Universidade Estadual de Goiás (Brazil)
Ronaldo Pilati
Universidade de Brasília (Brazil)
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to João Gabriel Modesto. Centro Universitário de Brasília, Faculdade de Psicologia. 70790–075. Brasília, DF, Brazil. E-mail:


Corruption is a global problem. Despite the importance of this theme, a shortage of theoretical models in both psychology and related areas that favor its understanding and investigation is noted. Due to this scarcity of theoretical models, in addition to the need to systematize studies on the topic, this theoretical article aims to describe the Analytical Model of Corruption (AMC) as an interdisciplinary and multilevel proposal aimed at corruption analysis. To achieve this goal, the concept of corruption was analyzed using related phenomena as reference. Similarities and differences in corruption have been identified with dishonest behavior and unethical behavior. Subsequently, theoretical models on corruption identified in the literature were presented, and their main characteristics and limitations were pointed out. After describing the models, the AMC was presented and its advantages over the previous models were discussed. Finally, it was concluded that the AMC could be configured as a theoretical model that guides interdisciplinary studies on corruption, allowing for a more complete analysis compared to previous theoretical models identified in the literature.

Research Article
© Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


The study was supported by the Grant 308268/2016-4 of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for the second author.


Alhassan-Alolo, N. (2007). Gender and corruption: Testing the new consensus. Public Administration and Development, 27(3), 227237. Scholar
Andersson, S., & Heywood, P. M. (2009). The politics of perception: Use and abuse of Transparency International’s approach to measuring corruption. Political Studies, 57(4), 746767. Scholar
Ashforth, B. E., Gioia, D. A., Robinson, S. L., & Treviño, L. K. (2008). Re-viewing organizational corruption. Academy of Management Review, 33(3), 670684. Scholar
Ayal, S., Gino, F., Barkan, R., & Ariely, D. (2015). Three principles to REVISE people’s unethical behavior. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(6), 738741. ScholarPubMed
Bai, B., Liu, X., & Kou, Y. (2016). Belief in a just world lowers bribery intention. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 19(1), 6675. Scholar
Barnes, T. D., Beaulieu, E., & Saxton, G. W. (2018). Restoring trust in the police: Why female officers reduce suspicions of corruption. Governance, 31(1), 143161. Scholar
Becker, G. S. (1968). Crime and punishment: An economic approach. Journal of Political Economy, 76(2), 169217. Scholar
Blickle, G., Schlegel, A., Fassbender, P., & Klein, U. (2006). Some personality correlates of business white-collar crime. Applied Psychology, 55(2), 220233. Scholar
Breen, M., Gillanders, R., Mcnulty, G., & Suzuki, A. (2017). Gender and corruption in business. The Journal of Development Studies, 53(9), 14861501. Scholar
Cislak, A., Cichocka, A., Wojcik, A. D., & Frankowska, N. (2018). Power corrupts, but control does not: What stands behind the effects of holding high positions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(6), 944957. Scholar
Collier, M. W. (2002). Explaining corruption: An institutional choice approach. Crime, Law and Social Change, 38(1), 132. Scholar
Collins, J. M., & Schmidt, F. L. (2006). Personality, integrity, and white collar crime: A construct validity study. Personnel Psychology, 46(2), 295311. Scholar
Darley, J. M. (2005). The cognitive and social psychology of contagious organizational corruption. Brooklyn Law Review, 70(4), 11771194.Google Scholar
Davis, J. H., & Ruhe, J. A. (2003). Perceptions of country corruption: Antecedents and outcomes. Journal of Business Ethics, 43(4), 275288. Scholar
DeCelles, K. A., DeRue, D. S., Margolis, J. D., & Ceranic, T. L. (2012). Does power corrupt or enable? When and why power facilitates self-interested behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(3), 681689. ScholarPubMed
Deephouse, D. L., Newburry, W., & Soleimani, A. (2016). The effects of institutional development and national culture on cross-national differences in corporate reputation. Journal of World Business, 51(3), 463473. Scholar
Dimant, E., & Schulte, T. (2016). The nature of corruption: An interdisciplinary perspective. German Law Journal, 17(1), 5372. Scholar
Doise, W. (1980). Levels of explanation in the European Journal of Social Psychology. European Journal of Social Psychology, 10(3), 213231. Scholar
Evans, J. S. B. T., & Stanovich, K. E. (2013). Dual-process theories of higher cognition: Advancing the debate. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(3), 223241. ScholarPubMed
Garrett, N., Lazzaro, S. C., Ariely, D., & Sharot, T. (2016). The brain adapts to dishonesty. Nature Neuroscience, 19, 17271732. ScholarPubMed
Gino, F., & Ariely, D. (2012). The dark side of creativity: Original thinkers can be more dishonest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 445459. ScholarPubMed
Gino, F., Ayal, S., & Ariely, D. (2009). Contagion and differentiation in unethical behavior: The effect of one bad apple on the barrel. Psychological Science, 20(3), 393398. Scholar
Gino, F., & Pierce, L. (2009). Dishonesty in the name of equity. Psychological Science, 20(9), 11531160. ScholarPubMed
Gino, F., Ayal, S., & Ariely, D. (2013). Self-serving altruism? The lure of unethical actions that benefit others. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 93, 285292. ScholarPubMed
Hallsson, B. G., Siebner, H. R., & Hulme, O. J. (2018). Fairness, fast and slow: A review of dual process models of fairness. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 89, 4960. ScholarPubMed
Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations. Sage Publications.Google Scholar
Jetter, M., Montoya Agudelo, A., & Ramírez Hassan, A. (2015). The effect of democracy on corruption: Income is key. World Development, 74, 286304. Scholar
Jha, C., & Panda, B. (2017). Individualism and corruption: A cross-country analysis. Economic Papers: A Journal of Applied Economics and Policy, 36(1), 6074. Scholar
Johnson, J. F., & Connelly, S. (2016). Moral disengagement and ethical decision-making. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 15(4), 184189. Scholar
Judge, W. Q., McNatt, D. B., & Xu, W. (2011). The antecedents and effects of national corruption: A meta-analysis. Journal of World Business, 46(1), 93103. Scholar
Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47(2), 263292. Scholar
Kish-Gephart, J. J., Harrison, D. A., & Treviño, L. K. (2010). Bad apples, bad cases, and bad barrels: Meta-analytic evidence about sources of unethical decisions at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 131. ScholarPubMed
Knoll, M., Lord, R. G., Petersen, L.-E., & Weigelt, O. (2016). Examining the moral grey zone: The role of moral disengagement, authenticity, and situational strength in predicting unethical managerial behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 46(1), 6578. Scholar
Lehnert, K., Park, Y., & Singh, N. (2015). Research note and review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: Boundary conditions and extensions. Journal of Business Ethics, 129(1), 195219. Scholar
Mazar, N., Amir, O., & Ariely, D. (2008). The dishonesty of honest people: A theory of self-concept maintenance. Journal of Marketing Research, 45(6), 633644. Scholar
Mazar, N., & Ariely, D. (2006). Dishonesty in everyday life and its policy implications. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 25(1), 117126. Scholar
Mead, N. L., Baumeister, R. F., Gino, F., Schweitzer, M. E., & Ariely, D. (2009). Too tired to tell the truth: Self-control resource depletion and dishonesty. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(3), 594597. ScholarPubMed
Park, H. (2003). Determinants of corruption: A cross‐national analysis. Multinational Business Review, 11(2), 2948. Scholar
Pellegrini, L. (2011). Corruption, development and the environment. Springer Netherlands.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pereira, M. E., & Araújo, S. de F. (2013). Social cognition. In Keith, K. D. (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural Psychology (1st Ed., pp. 11911197). Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peters, J. G., & Welch, S. (1978). Political corruption in America: A search for definitions and a theory, or if political corruption is in the mainstream of American politics why is it not in the mainstream of American politics research? American Political Science Review, 72(3), 974984. Scholar
Pettigrew, T. F. (2018). The emergence of Contextual Social Psychology. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(7), 963971. ScholarPubMed
Rest, J. R. (1986). Moral development: Advances in research and theory. Praeger.Google Scholar
Reyna, V. F. (2004). How people make decisions that involve risk: A dual-processes approach. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(2), 6066. Scholar
Rilling, J. K., Gutman, D. A., Zeh, T. R., Pagnoni, G., Berns, G. S., & Kilts, C. D. (2002). A neural basis for social cooperation. Neuron, 35(2), 395405. ScholarPubMed
Saha, S., Gounder, R., & Su, J.-J. (2009). The interaction effect of economic freedom and democracy on corruption: A panel cross-country analysis. Economics Letters, 105(2), 173176. Scholar
Schikora, J. T. (2011, March 1). Bringing the four-eyes-principle to the lab (Munich Discussion Paper 2011–3). Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Scholar
Schindler, S., & Pfattheicher, S. (2017). The frame of the game: Loss-framing increases dishonest behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 172177. Scholar
Scott, E. D., & Jehn, K. A. (1999). Ranking rank behaviors: A comprehensive situation-based definition of dishonesty. Business & Society, 38(3), 296325. Scholar
Shenhav, A., & Greene, J. D. (2014). Integrative moral judgment: Dissociating the roles of the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(13), 47414749. ScholarPubMed
Soeharto, I., & Nugroho, N. (2018). Are we culturally corrupt? Revisiting the relationship between cultural dimensions and Corruption Perception Index. Asia Pacific Fraud Journal, 2(2), 143149. Scholar
Søreide, T. (2009). Too risk averse to stay honest? International Review of Law and Economics, 29(4), 388395. Scholar
Sung, H.-E. (2003). Fairer sex or fairer system? Gender and corruption revisited. Social Forces, 82(2), 703723. Scholar
Swamy, A., Knack, S., Lee, Y., & Azfar, O. (2001). Gender and corruption. Journal of Development Economics, 64(1), 2555. Scholar
Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories: Studies in social psychology (1st Ed.). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Tanzi, V. (1998). Corruption around the world: Causes, consequences, scope, and cures. IMF Economic Review, 45(4), 559594. Scholar
Transparency International (2018). How do you define corruption? Scholar
Treviño, L. K., den Nieuwenboer, N. A., & Kish-Gephart, J. J. (2014). (Un)Ethical behavior in organizations. Annual Review of Psychology, 65(1), 635660. ScholarPubMed
Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32(6), 951990. Scholar
World Bank (2001). Engendering development: Through gender equality in rights, resources and voice. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Yeganeh, H. (2014). Culture and corruption. International Journal of Development Issues, 13(1), 224. Scholar
Zaloznaya, M. (2014). The social psychology of corruption: Why it does not exist and why it should. Sociology Compass, 8(2), 187202. Scholar
Zhao, H., Zhang, H., & Xu, Y. (2019). Effects of perceived descriptive norms on corrupt intention: The mediating role of moral disengagement. International Journal of Psychology, 54(1), 93101. ScholarPubMed
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

“Why are the Corrupt, Corrupt?”: The Multilevel Analytical Model of Corruption
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

“Why are the Corrupt, Corrupt?”: The Multilevel Analytical Model of Corruption
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

“Why are the Corrupt, Corrupt?”: The Multilevel Analytical Model of Corruption
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *