“Monkey See, Monkey Do?” : The Effect of Construal Level on Consumers’ Reactions to Others’ Unethical Behavior

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-472
Journal / PublicationJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Online published20 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


This research examines how and why reactions to other consumers’ unethical behavior differ among consumers and vary in different situations. Drawing on construal level theory, the authors propose that the relationship between other consumers’ unethical behavior and focal consumers’ unethical behavior is moderated by focal consumers’ construal level, and self-expressiveness mediates this moderating effect. Specifically, consumers at higher construal levels tend to view their behavior as more self-expressive and are thus less likely to imitate other consumers’ unethical behavior. Study 1 indicates that focal consumers who have a chronic tendency to construe information at high levels are less likely to replicate other consumers’ unethical behavior than those who have a chronic tendency to construe information at low levels. Studies 2, 3a and 3b show that when primed with higher-level construals, consumers are less likely to follow other consumers’ unethical behavior than when primed with lower-level construals. The mediating effect of self-expressiveness was tested and supported in Study 1 and Study 3b. These findings help to better understand consumers’ reactions to other consumers’ unethical behavior.

Research Area(s)

  • Unethical consumer behavior, Other consumers, Construal level theory, Self-expressiveness

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