Not Walking the Walk: How Dual Attitudes Influence Behavioral Outcomes in Ethical Consumption

Published on Apr 1, 2019in Journal of Business Ethics
· DOI :10.1007/S10551-017-3545-Z
Rahul Govind10
Estimated H-index: 10
(UNSW: University of New South Wales),
Jatinder J. Singh14
Estimated H-index: 14
(EADA Business School)
+ 1 AuthorsShachi D’Silva1
Estimated H-index: 1
Although consumers increasingly claim to demand ethical products and state that they are willing to reward firms that are ethical, studies have highlighted that there is a significant gap between consumers’ explicit attitudes toward ethical products and their actual purchase behavior. This has major implications for firm policies revolving around business ethics. This research contributes to the understanding of the attitude–behavior gap in ethical consumption that literature has identified but not explored much. We utilize the model of dual attitudes as a basis for the arguments presented in the paper and test them. We suggest that the gap in ethical consumerism exists because individuals have implicit as well as explicit attitudes, which are impacted differentially by stimuli and elicit dissimilar behavioral responses and thus have different implications for business ethics policies. Two longitudinal studies are conducted to better understand the impact of an individual’s dual attitudes on preferences and choice. Our findings support the presence of dual attitudes in consumers. Explicit attitudes are found to be easily influenced by the nature of the stimuli. On the other hand, implicit attitudes are relatively unaffected by the nature of the stimuli present and remain relatively constant. Based on the findings, implicit attitudes guide behavior and determine an individual’s preferences. Even though explicit attitudes react to the stimuli presented, our findings suggest they have no impact on the choice of consumers. These findings improve the understanding of ethical consumption, provide a reason as to why the attitude–behavior gap exists, provide a foundation for future researchers and help firms better understand the impact of perceived business on creating a behavioral shift in ethical consumption.
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