Do moral emotions make people responsible consumers ? : a preliminary investigation of incidental guilt and shame

Chu, Maggie Y. (Lee Shau Kee School of Business & Administration, The Open University of Hong Kong) ; Yim, Frederick H. K. (Department of Marketing, The Baptist University of Hong Kong) ; Wan, Lisa C. (School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong) ; Chan, Elisa K. (Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, HES-SO // University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland)

In nowadays consumption-based society, products (e.g. food and electronic products) are often thrown away before they are sufficiently used. The aversive consequence of such a lifestyle is becoming more alarming. There is an urgent need for a change in people’s consumption style. How can we make people correct their existing wasteful consumption behaviors and act responsibly? In fact, feelings very often can influence people’s behavior and judgments (Schwarz, 1990), even though the feelings are aroused by irrelevant sources - incidental emotion (Garg, Inman, & Mittal, 2005; Lerner & Keltner, 2000; Schwarz & Clore, 1983). Feelings of guilt and shame are known as moral emotions which are the guidance to ethical behaviors (Tangney, 1991, 2003). Although there is a significant overlapping between these two emotions, they also differ in several important aspects. One critical difference lies in the way the transgressor makes attributions (Niedenthal, Tangney, & Gavanski 1994). A transgressor who attributes the wrongdoing to a specific behavior (i.e. “I’ve done something bad”) is more likely to experience guilt while a transgressor who makes attribution to the global self (i.e. “I’m a terrible person”) is more likely to experience shame (Tracy & Robins, 2004). Given these fundamental differences, we speculate that a guilt-laden consumer is more likely to correct his or her wrongdoing (i.e. wastage) by taking reparative actions to minimize waste but a shame-laden consumer may possibly give up doing so. Findings from an experimental study (N=90) largely support this prediction. Undergraduate students who were made to feel shame were less likely to participate in a recycling campaign organized by the university than the students in the control condition. They reported a lower intention to use recycling facilities provided. On the other hand, participants who were made to feel guilt reported a marginally higher intention to participate in the campaign than the control participants. These preliminary findings suggest that emotional experience derived from other life domains might determine responsible consumption behaviors. Shame, which is commonly regarded as a moral emotion, may not necessarily make people more responsible consumers. The mechanism that underlies this effect may warrant further investigation.

Conference Type:
full paper
Economie et Services
Aucun institut
Tokyo, Japan, 26-29 July 2018
Tokyo, Japan
26-29 July 2018
9 p.
Published in:
Proceedings of the 2018 Global Marketing Conference at Tokyo
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 Record created 2018-10-22, last modified 2020-10-27

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