According to Cognitive psychology, to understand human decision-making processes (including decisions about acting corruptly) one must look at factors that influence information processing (such as time, mental capacity, and motivation). One must also examine how individuals mentally interpret and organise information by using schemata, the salience of emotions and the importance of social context.
Evidence from several studies shows the influence of social status (power) and risk perceptions plays a key role in cancerous attittudes; a smaller number of studies about the role of personal gain and self-control; and very few studies regarding the effects of emotions and rationalisation narratives. Now, individuals holding power more prone to acting corruptly.
Wang and Sun (2016) carried out experiments with students and working adults in China to examine how individuals’ view of the type of power they hold – either “personalised” or “socialised” – shapes attitudes towards corruption and corrupt behaviour. The authors define the power concept as “the belief about the goals one should accomplish while using one’s power” (78). People who view power as personalised believe that power should be used to pursue self-centred goals for one’s own benefit. A socialised power view means that the power holder believes power should be used to pursue other-focused goals. The authors find that having a personalised power view increases self-interested behaviour and tolerance towards corruption, especially the corrupt behaviour of high-ranking individuals.
Education has been used as an instrument in gaining power. Hence, the more educated one is, the more more he or she may gain in society. The resulting effect of education has two contradictory sides. First, an educated individual is prone to frown upon unscrupolous acts because she is aware of the long term effect. On the other hand, she may incorporate the gains to be derived and engage in corrupt acts. The choice however, depends on the ‘short or long sightedness’ of unique individuals.