Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future: Influences of regulatory focus on consumers’ moral self-regulation

Maria Schwabe, David Dose, Gianfranco Walsh

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Moral decisions in the marketplace largely depend on consumers’ own behavioral history. Psychology literature distinguishes two possible routes for consumers’ sequential moral decision making: moral balancing and moral consistency. Moral balancing refers to consumers’ deviation from the moral stance reflected in their past decisions; moral consistency implies that consumers repeat their prior moral and immoral decisions. Drawing on regulatory focus theory, four experimental studies affirm that balancing effects occur for consumers with a strong promotion focus, but consistency is more pronounced for prevention-focused consumers; the studies also elucidate the processes underlying these effects. In addition, the promotion-balancing effect, but not the prevention-repetition effect, disappears if the second decision is unambiguously moral or immoral. These findings contribute to a better understanding of morality in the marketplace by showing that the prevention-repetition effect from psychology literature arises in consumption situations, and the promotion-balancing effect emerges as a new consumer behavior phenomenon.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)234-252
    JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
    Issue number2
    Early online date18 Dec 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2018

    Bibliographical note

    © 2017 Society for Consumer Psychology


    • regulatory focus
    • moral self-regulation
    • moral licensing
    • moral cleansing
    • moral consistency
    • moral consumption


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