A significant body of research concludes that stable beliefs of perceived consumer effectiveness lead to sustainable consumption choices. Consumers who believe that their decisions can significantly affect environmental and social issues are more likely to behave sustainably. Little is known, however, about how perceived consumer effectiveness can be increased. We find that feelings of guilt and pride, activated by a single consumption episode, can regulate sustainable consumption by affecting consumers’ general perception of effectiveness. This paper demonstrates the impact that guilt and pride have on perceived consumer effectiveness and shows how this effect rests on the ability of these emotions to influence perceptions of agency. After experiencing guilt or pride, consumers see themselves as the cause of relevant sustainability outcomes. The process of causal attribution associated with these emotions influences consumers’ use of neutralization techniques. Through the reduction in consumers’ ability to neutralize their sense of personal responsibility, guilt and pride positively influence perceived consumer effectiveness. The inability to rationalize-away their personal responsibility, persuades consumers that they affect sustainability outcomes through their decisions. The research advances our understanding of sustainable consumption and identifies a new avenue for the regulation of individual consumer behavior that has significant implications for the development of sustainable marketing initiatives.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
This is similar to the difference between response efficacy and self-efficacy articulated in the literature on protection motivation theory (Rogers 1983).
We also tested the model using a single item to measure the tendency to use neutralization techniques. Results are very similar to those presented in the paper but we prefer to retain a multi-item measure since single item constructs have been criticized in the literature (Ringle et al. 2012).
Perceived consumer effectiveness
Perceived behavioral control
Internal locus of control
Agnihotri, R., Rapp, A., Kothandaraman, P., & Singh, R. K. (2012). An emotion-based model of salesperson ethical behaviors. Journal of Business Ethics, 109(2), 243–257.
Agrawal, N., & Duhachek, A. (2010). Emotional compatibility and the effectiveness of antidrinking messages: A defensive processing perspective on shame and guilt. Journal of Marketing Research, 47(2), 263–273.
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behaviour. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–211.
Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Andorfer, V. A., & Liebe, U. (2012). Research on fair trade consumption—a review. Journal of Business Ethics, 106(4), 415–435.
Baca-Motes, K., Brown, A., Gneezy, A., Keenan, E., & Nelson, L. D. (2013). Commitment and behavior change: Evidence from the field. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(5), 1070–1084.
Bagozzi, R. P., Gopinath, M., & Nyer, P. U. (1999). The role of emotions in marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27(2), 184–206.
Bamberg, S., & Möser, G. (2007). Twenty years after Hines, Hungerford, and Tomera: A new meta-analysis of psycho-social determinants of pro-environmental behaviour. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27(1), 14–25.
Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy in human agency. American Psychologist, 37(2), 122–147.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
Bandura, A. (2004). Social cognitive theory for personal and social change by enabling media. In A. Singhal, M. J. Cody, E. M. Rogers, & M. Sabido (Eds.), Entertainment—education and social change: History, research, and practice (pp. 75–96). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.
Basil, D. Z., Ridgway, N. M., & Basil, M. D. (2006). Guilt appeals: the mediating effect of responsibility. Psychology & Marketing, 23(12), 1035–1054.
Basil, D. Z., Ridgway, N. M., & Basil, M. D. (2008). Guilt and giving: A process model of empathy and efficacy. Psychology & Marketing, 25(1), 1–23.
Baumeister, R. F. (2002). Reflections and reviews impulsive purchasing, and consumer behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(3), 670–677.
Baumeister, R. F., Stillwell, A. M., & Heatherton, T. F. (1995). Personal narratives about guilt: Role in action control and interpersonal relationships. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 17(1/2), 173–198.
Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., DeWall, C. N., & Zhang, L. (2007). How emotion shapes behavior: Feedback, anticipation, and reflection, rather than direct causation. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11(2), 167–203.
Berger, I., & Corbin, R. (1992). Perceived consumer effectiveness and faith in others as moderators of environmentally responsible behaviours. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 11(2), 79–89.
Blasi, A. (1999). Emotions and moral Motivation. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 29(1), 1–19.
Bodolica, V., & Spraggon, M. (2011). Behavioral governance and self-conscious emotions: Unveiling governance implications of authentic and hubristic pride. Journal of Business Ethics, 100(3), 535–550.
Boezeman, E. J., & Ellemers, N. (2007). Volunteering for charity: Pride, respect, and the commitment of volunteers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(3), 771–785.
Bray, J., Johns, N., & Kilburn, D. (2010). An exploratory study into the factors impeding ethical consumption. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(4), 597–608.
Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(1), 3–5.
Carrington, M. J., Neville, B. A., & Whitwell, G. J. (2010). Why ethical consumers don’t walk their talk: Towards a framework for understanding the gap between the ethical purchase intentions and actual buying behaviour of ethically minded consumers. Journal of Business Ethics, 97, 139–158.
Carrus, G., Passafaro, P., & Bonnes, M. (2008). Emotions, habits and rational choices in ecological behaviours: The case of recycling and use of public transportation. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28(1), 51–62.
Chan, R. (2001). Determinants of Chinese consumers’ green purchase behaviour. Psychology & Marketing, 18(4), 389–413.
Chan, R., & Lau, L. (2000). Antecedents of green purchases: A survey in China. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 17(4), 338–357.
Chatzidakis, A., Hibbert, S., & Smith, A. (2007). Why people don’t take their concerns about fair trade to the supermarket: The role of neutralization. Journal of Business Ethics, 74(1), 89–100.
Cheng, J. T., Tracy, J. L., & Henrich, J. (2010). Pride, personality, and the evolutionary foundations of human social status. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 334–347.
Cleveland, M., Kalamas, M., & Laroche, M. (2012). “It’s not easy being green”: Exploring green creeds, green deeds, and internal environmental locus. Psychology & Marketing, 29(2), 293–305.
Cohen, T. R. (2010). Moral emotions and unethical bargaining: The differential effects of empathy and perspective taking in deterring deceitful negotiation. Journal of Business Ethics, 94(4), 569–579.
Cotte, J., & Trudel, R. (2009). Socially conscious consumerism—a systematic review of the body of knowledge. Network for Business Sustainability Knowledge Project Series. Accessed at: http://nbs.net/topic/consumer/consumerism/ on 4 January 2013.
Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24, 349–354.
De Bock, T., & Van Kenhove, P. (2010). Double standards: The role of techniques of neutralization. Journal of Business Ethics, 99(2), 283–296.
Duhachek, A., Agrawal, N., & Han, D. (2012). Guilt versus shame: Coping, fluency, and framing in the effectiveness of responsible drinking messages. Journal of Marketing Research, 24(6), 928–941.
Eckhardt, G., Belk, R. W., & Devinney, T. M. (2010). Why don’t consumers consume ethically? Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 9(6), 426–436.
Ellen, P. S., Wiener, J. L., & Cobb-Walgren, C. (1991). The role of perceived consumer effectiveness in motivating environmentally conscious behaviors. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 10(2), 102–117.
Fishbein, M. (1963). An investigation of relationships between beliefs about an object and the attitude toward that object. Human Relations, 16, 233–240.
Gilbert, P. (2003). Evolution, social roles, and the differences in shame and guilt. Social Research, 70(4), 1205–1230.
Granzin, K., & Olsen, J. (1991). Characterizing participants in activities protecting the environment—a focus on donating, recycling, and conservation behaviors. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 10(2), 1–27.
Gregory-Smith D., Smith, A., & Winklhofer, H. (2013) Emotions and dissonance in ‘ethical’ consumption choices. Journal of Marketing Management. doi:10.1080/0267257X.2013.796320.
Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J., & Van den Bergh, B. (2010). Going green to be seen: Status, reputation, and conspicuous conservation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(3), 392–404.
Grob, A. (1995). A structural model of environmental attitudes and behavior. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 209–220.
Haidt, J. (2003). The moral emotions. In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, & H. H. Goldsmith (Eds.), Handbook of affective sciences (pp. 852–870). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Hair, J. F., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2011). PLS-SEM: Indeed a silver bullet. The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 19(2), 139–152.
Hair, J. F., Sarstedt, M., Ringle, C. M., & Mena, J. A. (2012). An assessment of the use of partial least squares structural equation modeling in marketing research. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 40(3), 414–433.
Hanss, D., & Böhm, G. (2010). Can I make a difference ? The role of general and domain-specific self-efficacy in sustainable consumption decisions. Umweltpsychologie, 14(2), 46–74.
Hanss, D., & Böhm, G. (2013). Promoting purchases of sustainable groceries: An intervention study. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 33, 53–67.
Hartlieb, S., & Jones, B. (2009). Humanising business through ethical labelling: Progress and paradoxes in the UK. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(3), 583–600.
Hastings, G., Stead, M., & Webb, J. (2004). Fear appeals in social marketing strategic and ethical reasons for concern. Psychology & Marketing, 21(11), 961–986.
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2/3), 61–83.
Hesz, A., & Neophytou, B. (2010). Guilt trip—from fear to guilt on the green bandwagon. Chichester, UK: Wiley & Sons.
Hibbert, S., Smith, A., Davies, A., & Ireland, F. (2007). Guilt appeals: Persuasion knowledge and charitable giving. Psychology & Marketing, 24(8), 723–742.
Higgins, E. T., Friedman, R. S., Harlow, R. E., Idson, L. C., Ayduk, O. N., & Taylor, A. (2001). Achievement orientations from subjective histories of success: Promotion pride versus prevention pride. European Journal of Social Psychology, 23(3), 3–23.
Horton, J. J., Rand, D. G., & Zeckhauser, R. J. (2011). The online laboratory: Conducting experiments in a real labor market. Experimental Economics, 14(3), 399–425.
Huhmann, B. A., & Brotherton, T. P. (1997). A content analysis of guilt appeals in popular magazine advertisements. The Journal of Advertising, 26(2), 35–45.
Hyman, M. R., & Tansey, R. (1990). The ethics of psychoactive ads. Journal of Business Ethics, 9(2), 105–114.
Jackson, T. (2006). The Earthscan reader in sustainable consumption. London: Earthscan.
Kaiser, F. (2006). A moral extension of the theory of planned behavior: Norms and anticipated feelings of regret in conservationism. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(1), 71–81.
Kappas, A. (2006). Appraisals are direct, immediate, intuitive, and unwitting…and some are reflective… Cognition & Emotion, 20(7), 952–975.
Kim, Y., & Choi, S. M. (2005). Antecedents of green purchase behavior: An examination of collectivism, environmental concern, and PCE. Advances in Consumer Research, 32(1), 592–599.
Kim, J., & Johnson, K. (2013). The impact of moral emotions on cause-related marketing campaigns: A cross-cultural examination. Journal of Business Ethics, 112(1), 79–90.
Kinnear, T. C., Taylor, J. R., & Ahmed, S. A. (1974). Ecologically concerned consumers: Who are they? Journal of Marketing, 38(2), 20–24.
Lazarus, R. S. (1993). From psychological stress to the emotions: A history of changing outlooks. Annual Review of Psychology, 44(1), 1–21.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
Lee, J., & Holden, S. S. (1999). Understanding the determinants of environmentally conscious behavior. Psychology & Marketing, 16(5), 373–392.
Lindenmeier, J., Schleer, C., & Pricl, D. (2012). Consumer outrage: Emotional reactions to unethical corporate behavior. Journal of Business Research, 65(9), 1364–1373.
Lindsay, J. J., & Strathman, A. (1997). Predictors of recycling behavior: An application of a modified health belief model. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27, 1799–1823.
Lord, K. R., & Putrevu, S. (1998). Acceptance of recycling appeals: The moderating role of perceived consumer effectiveness. Journal of Marketing Management, 14(6), 581–590.
Mayer, F., & Frantz, C. (2004). The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of individuals’ feeling in community with nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24(4), 503–515.
McDonald, R., Fielding, K., & Louis, W. (2013). Energizing and de-motivating effects of norm-conflict. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(1), 57–72.
Mellers, B. A., & McGraw, A. P. (2001). Anticipated emotions as guides to choice. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(6), 210–214.
Mishra, A., & Mishra, H. (2011). The influence of price discount versus bonus pack on the preference for virtue and vice foods. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(1), 196–206.
Mohr, G., Lichtenstein, D., & Janiszewski, C. (2012). The effect of marketer-suggested serving size on consumer responses: The unintended consequences of consumer attention to calorie information. Journal of Marketing, 76(1), 59–75.
Niedenthal, P. M., Tangney, J. P., & Gavanski, I. (1994). “If only I weren’t” versus “If only I hadn’t”: Distinguishing shame and guilt in conterfactual thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(4), 585–595.
Nisbet, E., Zelenski, J., & Murphy, S. (2009). The nature relatedness scale linking individuals’ connection with nature to environmental concern and behavior. Environment and Behavior, 41(5), 715–740.
Oppenheimer, D. M., Meyvis, T., & Davidenko, N. (2009). Instructional manipulation checks: Detecting satisficing to increase statistical power. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(4), 867–872.
Patrick, V. M., Chun, H. H., & Macinnis, D. J. (2009). Affective forecasting and self-control: Why anticipating pride wins over anticipating shame in a self-regulation context. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19(3), 537–545.
Peloza, J., White, K., & Shang, J. (2013). Good and guilt-free : The role of self-accountability in influencing preferences for products with ethical attributes. Journal of Marketing, 77(1), 104–119.
Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J. Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.
Prothero, A., Dobscha, S., Freund, J., Kilbourne, W. E., Luchs, M. G., Ozanne, L. K., et al. (2011). Sustainable consumption: Opportunities for consumer research and public policy. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 30(1), 31–38.
Reinartz, W., Haenlein, M., & Henseler, J. (2009). An empirical comparison of the efficacy of covariance-based and variance-based SEM. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 26(4), 332–344.
Reynolds, W. M. (1982). Development of reliable and valid short forms of the MCSDS. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38(1), 119–125.
Rice, G. (2006). Pro-environmental behavior in Egypt: Is there a role for Islamic environmental ethics? Journal of Business Ethics, 65(4), 373–390.
Ringle, C. M., Sarstedt, M., & Straub, D. W. (2012). A critical look at the use of PLS-SEM in MIS Quarterly. MIS Quarterly, 36(1), iiv–8.
Ringle, C. M., Wende, S., & Will, A. (2005). SmartPLS 2.0, www.smartpls.de.
Roberts, J. A. (1996). Green consumers in the 1990s: Profile and implications for advertising. Journal of Business Research, 36(3), 217–231.
Rogers, R. W. (1983). Cognitive and physiological processes in fear appeals and attitude change: A revised theory of protection motivation. In J. T. Cacioppo & R. E. Petty (Eds.), Social Psychophysiology (pp. 153–176). New York: The Guilford Press.
Roseman, I. J. (1991). Appraisal determinants of discrete emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 5(3), 161–200.
Roseman, I. J., Antoniou, A. A., & Jose, P. E. (1996). Appraisal determinants of emotions: Constructing a more accurate and comprehensive theory. Cognition and Emotion, 10(3), 241–278.
Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 80, 1–28.
Schultz, P. W. (2000). Empathizing with nature: The effects of perspective taking on concern for environmental issues. Journal of Social Issues, 56, 391–406.
Schwepker, C. H., Jr, & Cornwell, T. B. (1991). An examination of ecologically concerned consumers and their intention to purchase ecologically packaged products. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 10(2), 77–101.
Shariff, A. F., Tracy, J. L., Cheng, J. T., & Henrich, J. (2010). Further thoughts on the evolution of pride’s two facets: A response to Clark. Emotion Review, 2(4), 399–400.
Shaw, D., & Newholm, T. (2002). Voluntary simplicity and the ethics of consumption. Psychology & Marketing, 19(2), 167–185.
Skinner, N., & Brewer, N. (2002). The dynamics of threat and challenge appraisals prior to stressful achievement events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(3), 678–692.
Smith, S. M., Haugtvedt, C. P., & Petty, R. E. (1994). Attitudes and recycling: Does the measurement of affect enhance behavioral prediction? Psychology & Marketing, 11(4), 359–374.
Soscia, I. (2007). Gratitude, delight, or guilt: The role of consumers’ emotions in predicting postconsumption behaviours. Psychology & Marketing, 24(10), 871–894.
Steenhaut, S., & Van Kenhove, P. (2005). Relationship commitment and ethical consumer behavior in a retail setting: The case of receiving too much change at the checkout. Journal of Business Ethics, 56(4), 335–353.
Steenhaut, S., & Van Kenhove, P. (2006). The mediating role of anticipated guilt in consumers’ ethical decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, 69(3), 269–288.
Strutton, D., Vitell, S. J., & Pelton, L. E. (1994). How consumers may justify inappropriate behavior in market settings: An application on the techniques of neutralization. Journal of Business Research, 30(3), 253–260.
Sykes, G. M., & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6), 664–670.
Tangney, J. P., & Dearing, R. L. (2002). Shame and guilt. New York: Guilford Press.
Tangney, J. P., Niedenthal, P. M., Covert, M., & Barlow, D. (1998). Are shame and guilt related to distinct self-discrepancies? A test of Higgins’s (1987) hypotheses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 256–268.
Tangney, J. P., Stuewig, J., & Mashek, D. J. (2007). Moral emotions and moral behavior. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 345–372.
Tangney, J. P., & Tracy, J. L. (2012). The self-conscious emotions. In M. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of Self and Identity (2nd ed., pp. 446–480). New York: The Guilford Press.
Taylor, S., & Todd, P. (1995). Understanding household garbage reduction behavior: A test of an integrated model. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 14(2), 192–204.
Thøgersen, J. (1996). Recycling and morality: A critical review of the literature. Environment and Behavior, 28(4), 536–558.
Tracy, J. L., & Robins, R. W. (2004). Putting the self into self-conscious emotions: A theoretical model. Psychological Inquiry, 15(2), 103–125.
Tracy, J. L., & Robins, R. W. (2007). The psychological structure of pride: A tale of two facets. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(3), 506–525.
Usher, E. L., & Pajares, F. (2008). Sources of self-efficacy in school: Critical review of the literature and future directions. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 751–796.
Verbeke, W., Belschak, F., & Bagozzi, R. P. (2004). The adaptive consequences of pride in personal selling. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 32(4), 386–402.
Vermeir, I., & Verbeke, W. (2006). Sustainable food consumption: Exploring the consumer “attitude-behavioral intention” gap. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 19(2), 169–194.
Vermeir, I., & Verbeke, W. (2008). Sustainable food consumption among young adults in Belgium: Theory of planned behaviour and the role of confidence and values. Ecological Economics, 64(3), 542–553.
Vohs, K. D., Baumeister, R. F., & Tice, D. M. (2008). Self-regulation—goals, consumption, and choices. In C. P. Haugtvedt, P. M. Herr, & F. R. Kardes (Eds.), Handbook of consumer psychology (pp. 349–367). New York: Psychology Press.
Webb, D. J., Mohr, L. A., & Harris, K. E. (2008). A re-examination of socially responsible consumption and its measurement. Journal of Business Research, 61(2), 91–98.
Webb, T. L., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Does changing behavioral intentions engender behavior change? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 132(2), 249–268.
Webster, F. E. (1975). Determining the characteristics of the socially conscious consumer. Journal of Consumer Research, 2(3), 188–196.
Webster, J. M., Duvall, J., Gaines, L. M., & Smith, R. H. (2003). The roles of praise and social comparison information in the experience of pride. Journal of Social Psychology, 143(2), 209–232.
Williams, L. A., & DeSteno, D. (2008). Pride and perseverance: The motivational role of pride. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(6), 1007–1017.
Winer, R. S. (1999). Experimentation in the 21st century: The importance of external validity. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27(3), 349–358.
Appendix: Scenario manipulating Guilt
Appendix: Scenario manipulating Guilt
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Antonetti, P., Maklan, S. Feelings that Make a Difference: How Guilt and Pride Convince Consumers of the Effectiveness of Sustainable Consumption Choices. J Bus Ethics 124, 117–134 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1841-9
- Ethical consumption
- Sustainable consumption
- Perceived consumer effectiveness