Taboo Trade-Offs, Relational Framing, and the Acceptability of Exchanges
Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 2-15, 2005
15 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2010
Date Written: 2005
This article reports 4 experiments demonstrating the power of social-relational framing to complicate superficially straightforward economic exchanges of goods and services. Drawing from Alan Fiske’s theoretical framework as well as Tetlock’s sacred value protection model, the experiments demonstrate (a) pricing distortions and refusals to answer certain questions when people contemplate buying or selling objects endowed with special relational significance; (b) moral outrage and cognitive confusion when people are asked whether they would allow market-pricing norms to influence decisions that fall under the normative purview of communal-sharing, authority-ranking, and equality-matching relationships; and (c) elements of tactical flexibility in how people respond to breaches of relational boundaries (a willingness to turn a blind eye to taboo trade-offs when it is in their interest to do so). An agenda for future work is offered that explores how pragmatic, economic interests are balanced against the desire to be (or appear to be) the type of person who honors social-relational constraints on what should be considered fungible.
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