The Consumers’ Emotional Dog Learns to Persuade Its Rational Tail: Toward a Social Intuitionist Framework of Ethical Consumption

  • Lamberto ZolloEmail author
Original Paper


Literature on consumers’ ethical decision making is rooted in a rationalist perspective that emphasizes the role of moral reasoning. However, the view of ethical consumption as a thorough rational and conscious process fails to capture important elements of human cognition, such as emotions and intuitions. Based on moral psychology and microsociology, this paper proposes a holistic and integrated framework showing how emotive and intuitive information processing may foster ethical consumption at individual and social levels. The model builds on social intuitionism to show how consumers’ a priori affect-laden intuitive moral judgments impact their post hoc reflective moral reasoning. Symbolic interactionism is used to interpret consumers as interdependent and socially embedded agents that self-construct their social identity through interactions with other consumers. The proposed social intuitionist framework of consumers’ ethical decision making shows that other-oriented moral emotions—such as elevation, gratitude, and empathy—interact with persuasion and social influence in ethical consumption. Consequently, moral emotions and intuition drive interpersonal persuasion among ethical consumers. Theoretical propositions and implications for consumer ethics theory and practice are discussed.


Consumer ethical decision making Emotion Ethical consumption Intuition Persuasion Social influence 



This study has not received any funding.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by the author.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sciences for Economics and BusinessUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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