Relational Spending in Funerals: Caring for Others Loved and Lost

Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2021

79 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2021 Last revised: 6 Apr 2021

See all articles by Sarah Whitley

Sarah Whitley

University of Georgia - C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business

Ximena Garcia-Rada

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Fleura Bardhi

Cass Business School

Dan Ariely

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Carey Morewedge

Boston University, Questrom School of Business

Date Written: March 21, 2021

Abstract

Funeral rituals perform important social functions for families and communities, but little is known about the motives of people planning funerals. Using mixed methods, we examine funeral planning as end-of-life relational spending. We identify how relational motives drive and manifest in funeral planning, even when the primary recipient of goods and services is dead. Qualitative interviews with consumers who had planned pre-COVID funerals (N=15) reveal a caring orientation drives funeral decision-making for loved ones and for self-planned funerals. Caring practices manifest in three forms: (a) balancing preferences between the planner, deceased, and surviving family, (b) making personal sacrifices, and (c) spending amount (Study 1). Archival funeral contract data (N=385) reveals supporting quantitative evidence of caring-driven funeral spending. Planners spend more on funerals for others and underspend on their own funerals (Study 2). Pre-registered experiments (N=1,906) addressing selection bias replicate these results and find generalization across different funding sources (planner-funded, other-funded, and insurance; Studies 3A-3C). The findings elucidate a ubiquitous, emotional, and financially consequential decision process at the end of life.

Keywords: funerals, relational spending, financial decision making, rituals, caring

Suggested Citation

Whitley, Sarah and Garcia-Rada, Ximena and Bardhi, Fleura and Ariely, Dan and Morewedge, Carey, Relational Spending in Funerals: Caring for Others Loved and Lost (March 21, 2021). Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3810168

Sarah Whitley (Contact Author)

University of Georgia - C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business ( email )

Brooks Hall
Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

Ximena Garcia-Rada

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Dan Ariely

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
(919) 381-4366 (Phone)

Carey Morewedge

Boston University, Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Ave
614, Marketing Department
Boston, MA 02215
United States

HOME PAGE: http://careymorewedge.com

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