(Non)Monetary Behaviors: How Morality and Status Shape Consumers’ Perceptions about Sustainable Actions

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Cecília Souto Maior
https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3413-7331 orcid
Danielle Mantovani
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7456-304X orcid


Objective: in response to the growing importance of environmental issues, more and more consumers are adopting a sustainable lifestyle. Therefore, it is important to understand the judgments and perceptions consumers form about the different possibilities of being sustainable. This study aims to investigate how consumers’ inferences about (non)monetary sustainable actions impact the judgments about the contribution of this action and about the actor responsible for the sustainable action. Theoretical framework: based on the costly signaling theory, this research investigates how consumers form judgments about (non)monetary sustainable actions. Method: Study 1 was a single factor (sustainable action: non-monetary vs. monetary) between-subjects design. Study 2 employed a 2 (sustainable action: non-monetary vs. monetary) by 2 (cost intensity: high vs. low costs) between-subjects design. In both studies, participants completed scales that measured the perceived environmental contribution of the action, the moral elevation of the actor performing the sustainable action, morality, and socioeconomic status. Results: consumers form more positive perceptions about non-monetary (vs. monetary) sustainable actions, making more positive inferences about environmental contribution and moral elevation. There is also evidence that morality shapes this effect. Given the actor’s self-investment imputed in a non-monetary action, these individuals are perceived as signaling more morality than those buying a sustainable product. Conclusions: although past research shows that buying a green product signals status, this study shows that it is not enough to trigger more positive inferences about the actor (moral elevation — admiration) and about the contribution of the action to the environment.


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Souto Maior, C., & Mantovani, D. (2022). (Non)Monetary Behaviors: How Morality and Status Shape Consumers’ Perceptions about Sustainable Actions. Journal of Contemporary Administration, e220068. https://doi.org/10.1590/1982-7849rac2023220068.en
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