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Corruption, a violation of impartiality in public affairs by using public office for private gain, has been at the centre of much inquiry due to its association with a plethora of societal and systemic ailments. But much of this inquiry has been characterised by a dispassionate approach to human behaviour stemming from a view of corruption best summarised by Kiltgaard, who wrote that “corruption is a crime of calculation, not passion”, that conceptualised corruption as a choice consciously made by individuals that consider the risks and benefits of engaging in corruption. In this paper, I posit that when it comes to individual-level judgement and behaviour towards corruption, we can not discount “passion”. In line with recent theories of moral psychology, I argue that to understand judgement and behaviour concerning corruption fully, we need to also pay attention to the role of an intuitive process, in particular moral intuitions, understood as hunches or feelings about where an action or situation falls on the wrong-right spectrum. My argument does not discount previous explanations but seeks to complement them.
To study whether intuitive processes have any role in judgement and behaviour concerning corruption, I use an autobiographical recall technique to induce two moral emotions (anger and guilt) separate from corruption judgement tasks. Because emotions are induced as separate from the decision-making task, I posit that any effect of these induced emotions is evidence of the causal role of intuitive processes. I conducted two studies using this technique, one in Peru and one in the UK. In both cases, I worked with a non-representative sample of citizens who answered an online survey where I induced emotions and then asked participants to evaluate a corruption scenario. My results show that induced emotions significantly affect reported behaviour and judgement concerning corruption, which provides evidence in favour of the role of intuitive processes in shaping judgement and behaviour related to corruption. Still, some of my results went against my initial expectations and rather pointed towards the need to account for contextual fairness.