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Belief in a Just World: Consumer Intentions and Behaviors Toward Ethical Products

White, K., MacDonnell, R. & Ellard, J. H. (2012). Belief in a Just World: Consumer Intentions and Behaviors Toward Ethical Products. Journal of Marketing, 76(1), pp. 103-118. doi: 10.1509/jm.09.0581


Although consumers report positive attitudes toward ethical goods, their intentions and behaviors often do not follow suit. Just-world theory highlights the conditions under which consumers are most likely to prefer fair-trade products. This theory proposes that people are motivated to construe the world as a just place where people get what they deserve. In the current research, when people are confronted with high levels of injustice (communicated need is high) and avenues for justice restoration seem uncertain or unavailable, assisting others by supporting fair trade decreases. However, highlighting how injustice can be redressed through purchases enhances fair-trade support under conditions of high need. The effects are moderated by justice sensitivity factors, such as just-world beliefs and whether the product type (indulgence vs. necessity) makes the injustice of consumer privilege salient. The results suggest that communicating high need when requesting consumer prosocial actions can sometimes backfire. Marketers employing high need appeals should heighten perceptions of justice restoration potential and activate fairness-related thoughts through product positioning to encourage fair-trade purchases.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright AMA 2012.
Publisher Keywords: belief in a just world, fair trade, ethical products, need, prosocial behavior, justice
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Departments: Bayes Business School
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