Do Less Ethical Consumers Denigrate More Ethical Consumers? The Effect of Willful Ignorance on Judgments of Others

42 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2015  

Daniel M. Zane

Ohio State University, Students

Julie R. Irwin

University of Texas - McCombs School of Business

Rebecca Walker Reczek

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Marketing and Logistics

Date Written: October 22, 2015

Abstract

This research shows that consumers who willfully ignore ethical product attributes denigrate other, more ethical consumers who seek out and use this information in making purchase decisions. Across three studies, willfully ignorant consumers negatively judge ethical others they have never met across various disparate personality traits (e.g., fashionable, boring). The denigration arises from the self-threat inherent in negative social comparison with others who acted ethically instead of choosing not to do so. In addition, this denigration has detrimental downstream consequences, undermining the denigrator’s commitment to ethical values, as evidenced by reduced anger towards firms who violate the ethical principle in question and reduced intention to behave ethically in the future. There are two moderators of the effect: Denigration becomes less strong if willfully ignorant consumers have a second opportunity to act ethically after initially ignoring the ethical product information and also significantly weakens if initially ignoring the ethical attribute is seen as justifiable. These results have implications for understanding ethical consumption behavior, perceptions of ethical consumerism in general, and marketing of ethical products.

Keywords: Willful ignorance, ethical attributes, ethical consumer behavior, morality, social comparison, sustainability

Suggested Citation

Zane, Daniel M. and Irwin, Julie R. and Reczek, Rebecca Walker, Do Less Ethical Consumers Denigrate More Ethical Consumers? The Effect of Willful Ignorance on Judgments of Others (October 22, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2678534 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2678534

Daniel M. Zane (Contact Author)

Ohio State University, Students ( email )

Columbus, OH
United States

Julie R. Irwin

University of Texas - McCombs School of Business ( email )

1 University Station B6700
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Rebecca Walker Reczek

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Marketing and Logistics ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
538 Fisher Hall
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

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