Can Thoughts of Having Less Ever Promote Prosocial Preferences? The Relationship between Scarcity, Construal Level, and Sustainable Product Adoption
Forthcoming, Journal of the Association for Consumer Research
61 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2018 Last revised: 9 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 9, 2019
Although many individuals endorse prosocial causes, little is understood about the factors that determine when people’s desire to consume in ways that benefit society as a whole will exceed their desire to accrue direct benefits to the self. We address this question by testing how reminders of resource scarcity affect consumers’ interest in sustainable products, and whether highlighting the prosocial or personal benefits associated with such products moderates this effect. We demonstrate the novel result that consumers exposed to reminders of resource scarcity are more likely to choose a sustainable product when the product’s prosocial (vs. personal) benefits are emphasized and the associated costs to the self are low. We provide evidence that this effect occurs because reminders of resource scarcity promote an abstract level of construal, which can carry over to affect decision making.
Keywords: scarcity, resource scarcity, prosocial behavior, sustainability, construal level, choice
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