Three Essays on the Role of Ideals and Morality in Consumer Decisions

Open Access
Lee, Sae Rom
Graduate Program:
Business Administration
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 03, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Hans Baumgartner, Karen Page Winterich, Dissertation Advisor
  • Johann Baumgartner, Committee Chair
  • Karen Page Winterich, Committee Chair
  • Margaret Grace Meloy, Committee Member
  • Linda K Trevino, Committee Member
  • William T Ross, Special Member
  • Moral Identity
  • Charitable Giving
  • Justice
  • Empathy
  • Participative Pricing
  • Prestige
  • Conspicuous Consumption
Consumers’ desire to be their ideal self or communicate their ideal self-images to others generates various motivations affecting their decisions. Importantly, consumers’ concerns with morality often motivate or regulate their pursuit of their ideal self. Building on these ideas, three essays demonstrate the important role of ideals and morality in different consumer decision contexts. In the first essay, I explore how consumers with high moral identity respond to donation requests from charities. Though moral identity tends to have a positive effect on prosocial behavior, moral identity decreases donations to charity recipients who are responsible for their plight due to perceived injustice of donating to these recipients. However, donations to these recipients can be enhanced when individuals with high moral identity recall their own moral failings and feel empathy for the recipients. In the second essay, I explore how consumers make price decisions in Pay-What-You Want pricing schemes. Consumers generally have strong self-interest motivation to save money when they can set their own price, but their concerns with being fair to the seller or communicating ideal social images of prestige and wealth to other consumers constrain their self-interest seeking and lead them to offer higher prices to the seller. In the third essay, I propose that social benefits of conspicuous consumption will not accrue when money spent on conspicuous consumption is acquired without adequate effort of one’s own and is thereby perceived to be unfair. Especially when consumers place greater value on justice, they evaluate another person who engages in conspicuous consumption using money acquired without fair effort more negatively. These evaluations also carry over to consumers’ attitude toward the particular brand used as a conspicuous signal.