Purdue University Graduate School

Consumers’ Responses To Brand Controversial Action

Reason: For refereed publications.





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posted on 2022-07-26, 04:30 authored by Christine HuanChristine Huan


This study investigates consumers’ moral-decision making process when they become aware of brands’ controversial actions. Specifically, this study aims to understand the effects of consumers’ cognitive and affective responses on their moral judgments after learning about the controversy of brands conducting animal testing, which in turn impacts their brand switching intention. The current study also considers consumers’ approach-avoidance conflicts in the moral-decision making process in which consumers confront moral dilemmas. The particular brands’ controversial action of interest for this study is personal care brands’ conducting animal testing on their products and selling animal-tested products because many believe that animal testing is only vital for biomedical research purposes but not for pursuing beauty purposes. This study builds a conceptual model depicting the consumer moral decision-making process based on Rest's (1994) and Schwartz’s (2015) ethical decision-making (EDM) theory and Sirgy’s (1986) self-congruence theory. To test the model, highly valid responses were collected from 454 U.S. nationwide consumers through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and analyzed by structural equation modeling. The results indicated that: (1) consumers’ affective response (outward-focused emotion) and cognitive response (moral awareness) both provoked their moral incongruence and brand switching intention, (2) consumers’ cognitive response had a negative and significant impact on their moral disengagement, but moral disengagement had a marginal impact on brand switching intentions, (3) consumers’ affective response has a stronger impact on their moral judgment than cognitive, and their affective response can directly lead to brand switching intention, and lastly, (4) moral incongruence and moral disengagement mediated the effects of moral awareness and outward-focused emotion on brand switching intention. Finally, the research findings contribute to the consumer science literature in the area of consumers' moral decision-making process. For practical contributions, this study encourages companies to conduct practice that follows general consumers' moral beliefs and values to avoid losing their loyal customers. 


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Consumer Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jiyun Kang

Additional Committee Member 2

Wookjae Heo

Additional Committee Member 3

Shin Ae Park