From Slum Tourism to Smiley Selfies: The Role of Social Identity Strength in the Consumption of Morally Ambiguous Experiences
39 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2017 Last revised: 22 Jan 2018
Date Written: December 16, 2017
Why do some consumers find a consumption activity appealing while others see it as morally appalling? A series of five experiments in two different morally ambiguous contexts shows that differences in social identity strength can in part explain discrepant reactions to the very same consumption experience. Consumers who identify weakly (vs. strongly) with the people most related to the consumption environment are less likely to question the experience on moral grounds. As a result, they are more likely to choose a morally ambiguous consumption experience or to act in a morally ambiguous manner. The impact of social identity strength on consumer preference vanishes when the consumption experience is morally neutral or when all consumers are prompted to judge the experience on moral grounds. Statistical analyses based on post-hoc justifications provide further evidence for the mediating role of moral considerations.
Keywords: morality, social identity, unethical consumption, moral sensitivity, moral consideration
JEL Classification: M31
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