The moral high ground: Perceived moral violation and moral emotions in consumer boycotts
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Prior research has tended to focus on rational (e.g., collective social action and cost-benefit factors) rather than emotional processes when predicting boycott intention. The current dissertation proposes that both processes contribute to a boycotting decision and that each is premised on a perceived moral violation. A model is offered in which boycott intention is conceptualized as a consumer coping response. Three studies provide support that moral emotions and cost-benefit factors independently contribute to overall consumer boycott intention. In Study 1, online survey responses from active boycotters (N = 121) indicated that participants felt other-condemning moral emotions more acutely in symbolic boycotts than in non-symbolic boycotts. In Study 2, the theoretical relationship between perceived moral violation, boycott intention, and boycott behavior was established in a simple experiment (N = 201). In Study 3, experimental results from a real world consumer panel (N = 709) indicated that the key to diffusing consumer boycott intention is counter-message tactics aimed at reducing overall perceived moral violation. Path analysis using the data from Study 2 and 3 provided additional insight into the structure of the proposed model. Other-condemning and self-conscious emotions, along with perceived boycott benefit (ability to make a difference and self-enhancement), contributed to boycott intentions whereas cost perceptions played a lesser role in predicting boycott intention. Comparisons between the hypothesized model and a set of alternatives supported the proposition that boycott intention may be conceptualized as a coping behavior. Finally, the results of a path analysis indicated that two individual difference variables were determinants of perceived moral violation: humanitarian- egalitarian orientation and negative attitude towards big businesses.
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