Marketing Research Seminar: Manoj Thomas
Associate Professor of Marketing at Cornell University
T Building - Room T020
The Malleable Morality of Conspicuous Consumption
Conspicuous consumption has often been decried as immoral by many philosophers and scholars, yet it is ubiquitous and widely embraced. We resolve this apparent paradox by proposing that the perceived morality of conspicuous consumption is malleable, contingent upon how different moral lenses highlight the different characteristics embedded in the behavior. Utilizing the Moral Foundations Theory, we demonstrate that the individualizing values (i.e., equality and welfare) make people focus on the self-enhancing characteristics of conspicuous consumption, making it seem morally objectionable. However, the binding values (i.e., deference to authority, in-group loyalty, and purity) make people focus on the social identity signaling characteristic of conspicuous consumption, making it seem morally permissible. Thus, this research suggests that some moral values can, somewhat paradoxically, increase conspicuous consumption.