The consumer's code of virtue

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This dissertation examines how people navigate their consumption environments to maintain an image of themselves as good and virtuous in everyday life. It comprises an introduction, two empirical chapters, and a theoretical chapter. In the introduction, I provide a literature review on the similarities and potential differences between vice and virtue in interpersonal (i.e., moral) and intrapersonal (i.e., traditional self-control) contexts. In Chapter 1, I argue that people are motivated to experience appropriate negative affect in response to negatively valenced moralized stimuli (e.g., a documentary about the effects of bullying). Consequently, consumers are more reluctant to repair their moods by engaging in hedonic consumption after being exposed to negatively valenced moralized (vs. nonmoralized) stimuli. Furthermore, in social media contexts, such as Twitter, people feel more uncomfortable when hedonic, frivolous content follows negative moralized (vs. nonmoralized) content. These findings challenge emotion regulation research on hedonic motivation to increase positive and decrease negative affect, as well as judgment and decision making literature on preferences for sequences of events that improve over time. In Chapter 2, I argue that people can manipulate social norms around them to justify their own behavior. I examine this phenomenon in the context of indulgence. I demonstrate that for indulgent (vs. non-indulgent) consumption, people feel more justified when others match their behavior than when they engage in that behavior alone, and they therefore are more likely to encourage their friends to match their behavior. Chapter 3 addresses the broad set of strategies that consumers use to reduce dissonance when their behavior threatens to violate their code of virtue. I argue that, rather than relying on psychological strategies to reduce dissonance, they can use behavioral strategies to change their circumstances to avoid dissonance altogether. I discuss a variety of such strategies, and organize them in a framework reflecting the degree of self-protection they confer. I provide evidence that these self-protecting strategies can backfire when they are challenged, and that depending on them can be risky and come at a cost.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2017
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Lin, Stephanie Chia-Ying
Associated with Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
Primary advisor Wheeler, S. Christian
Thesis advisor Wheeler, S. Christian
Thesis advisor Huang, Szu-chi
Thesis advisor Khan, Uzma Aslam
Advisor Huang, Szu-chi
Advisor Khan, Uzma Aslam


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Stephanie Chia-Ying Lin.
Note Submitted to the Graduate School of Business.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2017 by Stephanie Chia-Ying Lin
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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