Purpose: Prior research suggests that consumers can engage in moral decoupling by separating their judgments of morality from their judgments of performance. Hence, they might rationalize the benefits of unethical behavior without condoning the behavior itself. This paper aims to study how a discrete positive emotion, such as authentic pride, can mitigate moral decoupling. Design/methodology/approach: Using three experimental studies, this research investigates and tests the underlying mechanism driving authentic pride, its effects and its key moderator. The results are analyzed using ANOVAs, regression-based serial mediation and moderated mediation analyses. Findings: The results show that authentic pride decreases consumer acceptance of unethical behavior across different contexts, including purchase intentions for unethically manufactured products (Study 1), evaluations of the corporate social responsibility activities of a tobacco company (Study 2) and acceptance of questionable consumer behavior in daily situations (Study 3). Research limitations/implications: This research explores attitudes and behavioral intentions as dependent variables. It would thus be of interest for future research to examine a behavioral measure. Practical implications: Given the potential problems of moral decoupling among consumers, marketers can devise effective strategies to reduce this problem using authentic pride appeals. Originality/value: This research demonstrates how authentic pride can decrease consumer acceptance of unethical behavior. More importantly, this research enriches our understanding of the underlying mechanism driving the influence of authentic pride such that it increases the belief in a just world, which in turn lowers moral decoupling (a serial mediation).
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- Authentic pride
- Belief in a just world
- Moral decoupling
- Positive emotion