The Weight of History: When Historical Corporate Transgressions Affect Present-Day Consumer Attitudes

60 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2018

See all articles by David Gal

David Gal

University of Illinois at Chicago

Jeffrey Parker

University of Illinois at Chicago - College of Business Administration

Tianyi Li

University of Illinois at Chicago

Date Written: May 21, 2018

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Gal, David and Parker, Jeffrey and Li, Tianyi, The Weight of History: When Historical Corporate Transgressions Affect Present-Day Consumer Attitudes (May 21, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3182709 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3182709

David Gal (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1200 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

Jeffrey Parker

University of Illinois at Chicago - College of Business Administration ( email )

601 South Morgan Street
11th Floor
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

Tianyi Li

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1200 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

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