The role of neutralisation in consumers' ethical decision-making

Chatzidakis, Andreas (2008) The role of neutralisation in consumers' ethical decision-making. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Consumers often behave in ways that are in apparent contradiction to their expressed ethical concerns (e.g. Carrigan and Attalla, 2001). In light of this, it is imperative that theories of consumer's ethical decision-making explain the ways in which people justify these acts to themselves and others. This thesis advances the concept of neutralisation (Sykes and Matza, 1957) in order to explore how individuals soften or eliminate the impact that counter-attitudinal and norm-contradictive behaviour can have upon their self-concept and social relationships.

A mixed method approach was adopted, comprising of two qualitative and two quantitative studies. The first qualitative study examined the applicability of neutralisation in consumers' support for the Fair Trade movement, a context which has been identified as of particular concern in previous research. Subsequently, the role of neutralisation in ethical decision-making was hypothesised within the theoretical framework of the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB; Ajzen, 1985, 1991). A second qualitative study enabled the operationalisation of the TPB and neutralisation constructs and informed the design of the quantitative studies.

A survey study and an experiment served to test the main research hypotheses. Results indicated that neutralisation has a significant, negative effect on intention and it precedes actual behaviour. This represents the first successful attempt to integrate neutralisation with an existing account of ethical decision-making. Despite this, there was no conclusive indication that neutralisation moderates the norm-intention, attitude-intention and intention-behaviour relationships. The experimental study did not appear to confirm the causal role of neutralisation but it did suggest possible moderating effects of the personal (rather than social) acceptance of neutralising beliefs. These findings are discussed in the light of previous studies and implications for neutralisation and ethical decision-making research are explored.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Smith, A.P.
Hibbert, S.A.
Keywords: Consumer behavior, moral and ethical aspects
Subjects: H Social sciences > HF Commerce
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 12844
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2012 08:08
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2017 23:28

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