Emotional Intelligence and Consumer Ethics: The Mediating Role of Personal Moral Philosophies

Journal of Business Ethics 142 (3):527-548 (2017)
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Abstract

Research on the antecedents of consumers’ ethical beliefs has mainly examined cognitive variables and has neglected the relationships among affective variables and consumer ethics. However, research in moral psychology indicates that moral emotions have a significant role in ethical decision-making. Thus, the ability to experience, perceive and regulate emotions should influence consumers’ ethical decision-making. These abilities, which are components of emotional intelligence, are examined as antecedents to consumers’ ethical beliefs in this study. Five hundred Australian consumers participated in this study by completing an online questionnaire that included measures of emotional intelligence, consumers’ ethical beliefs and personal moral philosophies. Results demonstrate that the ability to appraise and express emotions in oneself is directly negatively related to beliefs regarding actively benefiting from illegal actions as a consumer, passively benefiting at the expense of the seller and actively benefiting from questionable but legal actions as a consumer. The ability to appraise and express emotions in oneself is directly positively related to beliefs regarding ‘doing-good’ actions. The ability to appraise and recognise emotions in others is also directly positively related to beliefs regarding ‘doing-good’ actions as well as pro-environmental buying actions. The effects of the different components of emotional intelligence on consumers’ ethical beliefs are mediated by personal moral philosophies. This study demonstrates the relationship between emotional intelligence and consumer ethics and highlights the interplay of affect and cognition in consumers’ ethical decision-making.

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