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‘Consuming Good’ on Social Media: What Can Conspicuous Virtue Signalling on Facebook Tell Us About Prosocial and Unethical Intentions?

Abstract

Mentioning products or brands on Facebook enables individuals to display an ideal self to others through a form of virtual conspicuous consumption. Drawing on conspicuous donation behaviour literature, we investigate ‘conspicuous virtue signalling’ (CVS), as conspicuous consumption on Facebook. CVS occurs when an individual mentions a charity on their Facebook profile. We investigate need for uniqueness (NFU) and attention to social comparison information (ATSCI) as antecedents of two types of CVS–self-oriented (to gain intrinsic benefits) and other-oriented (to impress others). We also explore the relationship between CVS and self-esteem, and offline prosocial (donation to the charity) and unethical (counterfeit purchase) behaviour intentions. Data from two studies, a college survey (N = 234) and an adult survey via MTurk (N = 296), were analysed using structural equation modelling. Results indicate that NFU predicts both forms of CVS, while ATSCI influences both forms of CVS for adults and other-oriented CVS for students. Self-esteem is enhanced by self-oriented CVS. Self-oriented CVS predicts donation intention whereas other-oriented CVS significantly reduces donation intention for both samples. Furthermore, a significant relationship between CVS and purchase intention of counterfeit luxury goods is revealed. Findings provide insights into conspicuous virtue signalling and the relationship between CVS on Facebook and offline behavioural intentions.

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Abbreviations

ATSCI:

Attention to social comparison information

AVE:

Average variance extracted

CDB:

Conspicuous donation behaviour

CFA:

Confirmatory factor analysis

CR:

Composite reliability

CVS:

Conspicuous virtue signalling

NFU:

Need for uniqueness

OECD:

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Government of Spain (ECO2017-82103-P), and the Government of Aragón and the European Social Fund (Project Generés S54_17R).

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Correspondence to Elaine Wallace.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1 Profile of survey respondents (Study 1 and Study 2)
Table 2 Scale items and measurement model results

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Wallace, E., Buil, I. & de Chernatony, L. ‘Consuming Good’ on Social Media: What Can Conspicuous Virtue Signalling on Facebook Tell Us About Prosocial and Unethical Intentions?. J Bus Ethics 162, 577–592 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3999-7

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Keywords

  • Conspicuous donation behaviour
  • Conspicuous virtue signalling
  • Need for uniqueness
  • Attention to social comparison information
  • Self-esteem
  • Donation intention
  • Counterfeit purchase intention