Get some respect - buy organic foods! When everyday consumer choices serve as prosocial status signaling
Luomala, Harri; Puska, Petteri; Lähdesmäki, Merja; Siltaoja, Marjo; Kurki, Sami (2020-02-01)
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Status considerations have recently been linked to prosocial behaviors. This research shows that even everyday consumer behaviors such as favoring organic foods serve as prosocial status signaling. Key ideas from the continuum model of consumer impression formation and the theories of costly signaling and symbolic consumption are synthetized to make sense of this phenomenon. Two web-surveys (Ns = 187, 259) and a field study (N = 336) following experimental designs are conducted. This approach allows the analysis of both the more and less conscious reactions of consumers. Study 1 shows that the image of consumers favoring organic product versions is marked by characteristics consistent with prosocial status signaling. Study 2 replicates these findings with another sample and a wider range of products and demonstrate that observers’ conservative values influence the image formed of organic food users. Study 3 establishes that similar image effects also emerge through a less conscious formation process and that they extend to how organic food users are socially treated. This research advances the current understanding concerning the interlinkages between organic food usage, prosocial status signaling, consumer impressions and reputation management. Substantively, the studies provide novel compelling empirical evidence for the ability of non-luxurious everyday consumer behaviors to qualify as prosocial status signaling. Conceptually, the integration of evolutionary and sociocultural perspectives represents a major contribution. More specifically, this research yields new understanding as regards the role of individual variation in sensing and interpreting status symbols.
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