University of Cambridge > > Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) > From Sinners to Saints: How Redemption Narratives Motivate Prosocial Consumer Behaviors

From Sinners to Saints: How Redemption Narratives Motivate Prosocial Consumer Behaviors

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This research examines the conditions under which encountering a story of personal redemption following a moral failure can motivate people to act in a more prosocial manner. Across three pilot studies and six main studies, totalling almost 2300 participants, individuals higher in moral identity experienced greater moral elevation and exhibited increased prosocial behaviors after processing a redemption narrative. We argue that this occurs because higher moral identifiers possess a worldview which includes valuing what we call moral growth- the idea that people should move away from badness and toward moral goodness. Pilot study 1 shows that higher moral identifiers judge a protagonist more harshly after a moral failure and pilot studies 2 and 3 show that this effect fully reverses when the protagonist subsequently redeems themselves. Study 1 shows that the effect holds when the moral failure is severe (study 1a) and when compared to non-moral improvement (study 1b). Studies 2 and 3 find that the effect extends to participants’ real prosocial behaviors. Studies 4a and 4b also demonstrate effects on real prosocial behavior, and together show that the effect is dampened when higher moral identifiers possess a fixed (vs. growth) theory of morality (whether primed or measured). Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Eric is Assistant Professor of Marketing (University Lecturer) at Queen Mary University of London, School of Business and Management. He is also a Senior Member of Hughes Hall, Cambridge. An expert in consumer behavior and psychology, he teaches consumer behavior in the undergraduate and masters degree programs. Eric earned his BA in psychology from Franklin and Marshall College, MBA in marketing from Temple University Fox School of Business, MA (Cantab) from University of Cambridge Judge Business School, and MS and Ph.D. in marketing from University of Washington Foster School of Business. He also completed doctoral coursework and research (non-degree) in marketing and management at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Eric’s research has been published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Marketing, and Journal of Consumer Psychology.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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