The effects of belief in pure good and belief in pure evil on consumer ethics

Russell J. Webster, Nicolette Morrone, Donald A. Saucier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Even if businesses try to be ethical, they can succeed only if there are ethically-minded consumers. Three studies using college (N = 199) and nationwide (Ns = 345 and 327) convenience samples examined the effects of belief in pure evil (BPE) and belief in pure good (BPG) on consumer ethics attitudes and behavior, after controlling for demographic variables and various moral attitude scales. Across S1 and S2, BPG uniquely predicted greater endorsement of more prosocial consumer actions (e.g., eco-friendly/green behaviors) and greater admonition of more questionable, passive, and active forms of consumer misconduct. BPE, surprisingly, did not consistently predict (or even consistently correlate bivariately with) consumer ethics attitudes. However, in S3, BPE uniquely predicted greater likeability/intentions to buy a product with a poor (vs. excellent) environmental rating regardless of price; meanwhile, BPG uniquely predicted lower likeability/intentions to buy the environmentally unfriendly product and greater likeability/intentions to buy the environmentally friendly product. Parallel findings were found for intentions to watch YouTube videos that explained how to do ethical (vs. unethical) consumer behaviors. In sum, BPG—but not BPE—appears to most consistently relate to both perceptions of ethical consumer behavior and behavioral intentions to act ethically in the marketplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110768
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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