The Weight of History: When Historical Corporate Transgressions Affect Present-Day Consumer Attitudes
60 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2018
Date Written: May 21, 2018
Many organizations with long histories have committed major moral transgressions in their distant past. We establish that such transgressions, even if they were the responsibility of individuals long departed from the firm, can negatively bias consumers’ present-day attitudes toward these organizations. Neither attempting to make up for past wrongs nor highlighting a high transgression base rate among similar organizations of the past is particularly effective at mitigating negative consequences of past transgressions. Conversely, behaving righteously in the present in a domain unrelated to that of the transgression and having consumers deliberate on the connection (or lack thereof) between the past and present organization appear relatively effective at mitigating the effect of past transgressions on present attitudes. We argue that these findings can be explained by consumers instinctively representing organizations as possessing an immutable essence.
Keywords: Mental Representation of Organizations, Historical Behavior, Essentialism, Corporate Social Responsibility, Crisis Management
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