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Deserving to indulge and donate: drivers of virtuous consumer behavior

PhD ceremony:Ms M.T. (Martine) van der Heide
When:December 09, 2021
Supervisors:prof. dr. ir. K. (Koert) van Ittersum, prof. dr. T.H.A. (Tammo) Bijmolt, prof. dr. J. (Jenny) van Doorn
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Economics and Business
Deserving to indulge and donate: drivers of virtuous consumer

Societal challenges such as growing obesity rates and income inequality are shaped by consumer behavior. This dissertation specifically focuses on virtuous consumer behavior, which provides delayed benefits to the self or indirect benefits to society at a (short-term) cost to the self. The overall aims are to better understand, predict, and ultimately promote such behavior based on the inherent trade-offs it involves. One example of virtuous consumer behavior is healthy eating. This dissertation suggests that trade-offs between health goals and indulgence goals may cause the relative healthiness of food choices to evolve dynamically throughout shopping trips. Indeed, consumers balance the relative healthiness of their food choices—when they initially select a healthier option (e.g., low-fat milk), this choice is typically partly offset by an unhealthier subsequent choice (e.g., a sugary soft drink), whereas unhealthier choices are in turn followed by healthier subsequent choices. The strength of this balancing pattern depends on the nature of the food category and the stage of the (physical) shopping trip. Another example of virtuous consumer behavior is prosocial behavior. This dissertation examines whether consumers high in psychological entitlement, who have a sense that they deserve more than others, volunteer and help more when the opportunity to do so is framed as a selective opportunity (i.e., “offered specifically to you”). Selectivity indeed increases prosocial behavior among consumers high (but not those low) in entitlement. Together, these findings illustrate that countering negative balancing effects and using targeted marketing appeals may enhance diets, donations, and societal well-being.