Do What Consumers Say Matter? The Misalignment of Preferences with Unconstrained Ethical Intentions

Journal of Business Ethics 76 (4):361-383 (2007)


Nearly all studies of consumers’ willingness to engage in ethical or socially responsible purchasing behavior is based on unconstrained survey response methods. In the present article we ask the question of how well does asking consumers the extent to which they care about a specific social or ethical issue relate to how they would behave in a more constrained environment where there is no socially acceptable response. The results of a comparison between traditional survey questions of “intention to purchase” and estimates of individuals willingness-to-pay for social attributes in products reveal that simple survey questions are too “noisy” to provide operationally meaningful information and overstate intentions to a considerable extent.

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