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Morality Matters in the Marketplace: The Role of Moral Metacognition in Consumer Purchasing

To better understand the seemingly inconsistent influence of consumers' morality on their marketplace behaviors, we apply insights from research on attitude moralization to the consumer domain. That is, rather than predefining certain products as “moral,” this approach treats morality as the extent to which individual consumers metacognitively perceive their positive product attitudes as rooted in moral (vs. non-moral) considerations. Across multiple studies (N = 1,105), a wide variety of product categories, and multiple methodological approaches (i.e., correlational, experimental, and longitudinal), we show how the degree to which consumers perceive a moral basis for their product attitudes robustly predicts their intended and actual marketplace behaviors. Importantly, these findings hold above and beyond overall attitudes, other metacognitive assessments (e.g., certainty and ambivalence), and explicit product quality. By extending prior research in moral social cognition to the consumer domain, we provide a more refined account of morality's role in consumer behavior.

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