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Green Shopping: For Selfish Reasons or the Common Good?

American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 55, No. 8, pp. 1052-1076, 2011

Posted: 28 Sep 2011  

John Thoegersen

University of Aarhus - Department of Marketing and Statistics

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

Findings suggesting that consumers buy 'green' products, such as organic foods, for selfish reasons are usually accepted at face value. In this article, the author argues that the evidence backing this claim is questionable and that it reflects post hoc rationalizations and self-presentation biases on behalf of respondents. Knowing that one has incurred substantial personal costs by contributing to a worthy cause can create an uneasiness that one is motivated to relieve, especially when one is uncertain about the ultimate impact of this contribution. A possible coping strategy is to adjust one’s beliefs about intangible private benefits in a way that justifies (bolsters) one’s purchasing decision. A survey study among a representative sample of approximately 4,000 respondents from four European countries (Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom, and Italy) confirmed that this is exactly what 'green' consumers do. On the basis of Schwartz’s comprehensive Picture Value Questionnaire, it is also found that buying organic food is strongly, consistently, and positively related to unselfish values (i.e., universalism) but not selfish values (e.g., status, security, pleasure). This suggests that consumers at least start to buy these products for unselfish reasons (the common good). However, after having done so, they seem to bolster their beliefs about private benefits to preserve a self-image of being a competent and rational person.

Keywords: green shopping, confirmation bias, bolstering, values, organic food, survey

Suggested Citation

Thoegersen, John, Green Shopping: For Selfish Reasons or the Common Good? (2011). American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 55, No. 8, pp. 1052-1076, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1934185

John Thoegersen (Contact Author)

University of Aarhus - Department of Marketing and Statistics ( email )

Haslegårdsvej 10
Århus V
Denmark

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