Behavioral economics and monetary wisdom: A cross-level analysis of monetary aspiration, pay (dis)satisfaction, risk perception, and corruption in 32 nations

Thomas Li Ping Tang*, Zhen Li, Mehmet Ferhat Özbek, Vivien K.G. Lim, Thompson S.H. Teo, Mahfooz A. Ansari, Toto Sutarso, Ilya Garber, Randy Ki Kwan Chiu, Brigitte Charles-Pauvers, Caroline Urbain, Roberto Luna-Arocas, Jingqiu Chen, Ningyu Tang, Theresa Li Na Tang, Fernando Arias-Galicia, Consuelo Garcia De La Torre, Peter Vlerick, Adebowale Akande, Abdulqawi Salim Al-ZubaidiAli Mahdi Kazem, Mark G. Borg, Bor Shiuan Cheng, Linzhi Du, Abdul Hamid Safwat Ibrahim, Kilsun Kim, Eva Malovics, Richard T. Mpoyi, Obiajulu Anthony Ugochukwu Nnedum, Elisaveta Gjorgji Sardžoska, Michael W. Allen, Rosário Correia, Chin Kang Jen, Alice S. Moreira, Johnston E. Osagie, AAhad M. Osman-Gani, Ruja Pholsward, Marko Polic, Petar Skobic, Allen F. Stembridge, Luigina Canova, Anna Maria Manganelli, Adrian H. Pitariu, Francisco José Costa Pereira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Corruption involves greed, money, and risky decision-making. We explore the love of money, pay satisfaction, probability of risk, and dishonesty across cultures. Avaricious monetary aspiration breeds unethicality. Prospect theory frames decisions in the gains-losses domain and high-low probability. Pay dissatisfaction (in the losses domain) incites dishonesty in the name of justice at the individual level. The Corruption Perceptions Index, CPI, signals a high-low probability of getting caught for dishonesty at the country level. We theorize that decision-makers adopt avaricious love-of-money aspiration as a lens and frame dishonesty in the gains-losses domain (pay satisfaction-dissatisfaction, Level 1) and high-low probability (CPI, Level 2) to maximize expected utility and ultimate serenity. We challenge the myth: Pay satisfaction mitigates dishonesty across nations consistently. Based on 6500 managers in 32 countries, our cross-level three-dimensional visualization offers the following discoveries. Under high aspiration conditions, pay dissatisfaction excites the highest- (third-highest) avaricious justice-seeking dishonesty in high (medium) CPI nations, supporting the certainty effect. However, pay satisfaction provokes the second-highest avaricious opportunity-seizing dishonesty in low CPI entities, sustaining the possibility effect—maximizing expected utility. Under low aspiration conditions, high pay satisfaction consistently leads to low dishonesty, demonstrating risk aversion—achieving ultimate serenity. We expand prospect theory from a micro and individual-level theory to a cross-level theory of monetary wisdom across 32 nations. We enhance the S-shaped Curve to three 3-D corruption surfaces across three levels of the global economic pyramid, providing novel insights into behavioral economics, business ethics, the environment, and responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • cross-level analysis, measurement invariance, common method variance
  • dishonesty, corruption, wrongdoing, unethicality
  • greedy desires, avaricious monetary aspiration, love of money attitude, monetary wisdom
  • international, global, cross-cultural
  • pay satisfaction-dissatisfaction, gains-losses, justice, equity perceptions, Level 1
  • prospect theory, risk-taking, risk-aversion, the certainty effect, the possibility effect, S Curve, behavioral economics
  • theory of planned behavior, TPB, attitude, social norms, control, intention
  • transparency, high-low probability of risk, CPI,  environmental context, country level, Level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Philosophy

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