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Moral tribalism and its discontents: How intuitive theories of ethics shape consumers' deference to experts

Johnson, SGB; Rodrigues, M; Tuckett, D; (2020) Moral tribalism and its discontents: How intuitive theories of ethics shape consumers' deference to experts. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 10.1002/bdm.2187. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

We study the psychology at the intersection of two social trends. First, as markets become increasingly specialized, consumers must increasingly defer to outside experts to decide among complex products. Second, people divide themselves increasingly into moral tribes, defining themselves in terms of shared values with their group and often seeing these values as being objectively right or wrong. We tested how and why these tribalistic tendencies affect consumers' willingness to defer to experts. We find that consumers are indeed tribalistic in which experts they find convincing, preferring products advocated by experts who share their moral values (Study 1), with this effect generalizing across product categories (books and electronics) and measures (purchase intentions, information‐seeking, willingness‐to‐pay, product attitudes, and consequential choices). We also establish the mechanisms underlying these effects: because many consumers believe moral matters to be objective facts, experts who disagree with those values are seen as less competent and therefore less believable (Studies 2 and 3), with this effect strongest among consumers who are high in their belief in objective moral truth (Study 4). Overall, these studies seek not only to establish dynamics of tribalistic deference to experts but also to identify which consumers are more or less likely to fall prey to these tribalistic tendencies.

Type: Article
Title: Moral tribalism and its discontents: How intuitive theories of ethics shape consumers' deference to experts
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/bdm.2187
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1002/bdm.2187
Language: English
Additional information: © 2020 The Authors. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: expert choice, moral psychology, social evaluation, tribalism
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10105496
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