*Denotes equal contribution

Refining and Expanding Applications of Moral Foundations Theory in Consumer Psychology

Wayne Johnson*, Guilherme A. Ramos*, Eric VanEpps, and Jesse Graham (forthcoming). Journal of Consumer Psychology

We set forth an agenda for Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) research in consumer psychology, focusing in particular on four pathways: 1) factoring in multiple identities, including moral identities, to account for contextual elevation or suppression of moral foundations in predicting which decisions consumers moralize and when; 2) broadening the methodological usage of MFT to include more targeted causal research as well as expanding the utility of correlational research; 3) increasing discriminant validity between MFT and other constructs by studying moral foundations as individually manipulable and focusing on their incremental predictive validity over and above demographics and related constructs; and 4) recognizing that researcher biases regarding morality can leak into the publication process, necessitating clear distinctions between prescriptive versus descriptive research. These pathways facilitate more precise and stronger predictive validity for applying MFT in consumer psychology, yielding greater theoretical and practical utility across researcher perspectives.

Underestimations of the Income‐based Ecological Footprint Inequality

Vieites, Yan, Bernardo Andretti, Guilherme A. Ramos, Larissa Elmor, and Eduardo B. Andrade (forthcoming). Climatic Change

Previous research has demonstrated that the wealthy harm the environment to a much greater extent than those with lesser means. According to recent estimates, the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population emit 50% more CO2 than the bottom half of the income distribution. The reason for this inequality is clear: affluence boosts consumption, which in turn increases the ecological footprint. Although the phenomenon seems intuitive, little is known as to whether the layperson notices it. The current study assesses the extent to which individuals recognize or fail to notice such massive ecological footprint inequality and why misperceptions may arise. Across four preregistered studies (N = 1,188) conducted in a highly unequal socio-economic environment (Brazil), we show that people often fail to accurately perceive the massive ecological footprint inequality that surrounds them. These misperceptions are explained by people’s (a) failure to properly incorporate the impact of income-based differences in consumption in their ecological footprint assessments and (b) tendency to associate wealth with superior environmental education, greater resources to act sustainably, and better local infrastructure (e.g., proper garbage collection). Emphasizing the lack of infrastructure in deprived neighborhoods further exacerbates the misperceptions, whereas highlighting key differences in consumption habits across the socio-economic spectrum substantially increases accuracy. This research, thus, identifies the factors that magnify existing misperceptions in ecological footprint inequality and provides avenues for policymakers to reduce such mistakes.

Longitudinal Attenuation in Political Polarization: Evidence from COVID-19 Vaccination Adherence in Brazil

Furst, Rodrigo, Rafael Goldszmidt, Eduardo B. Andrade, Yan Vieites, Bernardo Andretti, and Guilherme A. Ramos (forthcoming), Social Science & Medicine

While political polarization in policy opinions, preferences, and observance is well established, little is known about whether and how such divisions evolve, and possibly attenuate, over time. Using the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil as the backdrop, we examine the longitudinal evolution of a highly relevant and polarizing policy: adherence to the COVID-19 vaccination. In three studies, we demonstrate that even in a highly politicized and divided social environment, the attenuation of political polarization can emerge over time. Studies 1 (N = 3,346) and 2 (N = 10,214) use nationwide surveys to document that despite substantial differences at the early stages of rollout, the gap in vaccination adherence between conservatives (“Bolsonaristas”) and non-conservatives (“non-Bolsonaristas”) significantly decreased with the passage of time, driven essentially by a much faster uptake among the initially most skeptic—the conservatives. With an original dataset (N = 742), Study 3 demonstrates that the asymmetric changes in vaccination adherence were associated with meaningful belief changes among the conservatives, especially about the perceived effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines and the expected adherence of peers to the vaccination campaign. Together, these studies show that, in a context where the superiority of the promoted policy becomes clear over time and individuals have the opportunity to revisit prior beliefs, even intense political polarization can be attenuated.

When Consumer Decisions are Moral Decisions: Moral Foundations Theory and its Implications for Consumer Psychology

*Ramos, Guilherme A., *Wayne Johnson, Eric VanEpps, and Jesse Graham (forthcoming), Journal of Consumer Psychology

Although researchers have considered the role of morality in consumer psychology, such investigations often fail to (a) recognize the different values that consumers might hold, and (b) provide proper context for why different moral considerations emerge. Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) provides just such a conceptual framework for understanding the diversity of moral thought that exists across cultures and demographic groups. We review the central claims of MFT and describe how it can offer new insights when applied to consumer psychology, providing examples from existing research on persuasion, emotion, and prosocial behavior.

Can Self-Protective Behaviors Increase Unrealistic Optimism? Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

*Ramos, Guilherme A., *Yan Vieites,  Eduardo B. Andrade, Carlos Pereira, and Amanda Medeiros (2021), Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied

People tend to believe they are more (less) likely to experience positive (negative) outcomes than similar others. While research has consistently shown that feeling unrealistically optimistic about future events influences the adoption of self-protective behaviors, much less is known about the opposite relationship. We address this gap by examining whether and how self-protective behaviors influence unrealistic optimism in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across two preregistered, high-powered experiments ( N = 4,707), we document a generalized unrealistic optimism about the health risks associated with COVID-19. Critically, we show that prompting people to think about a precautionary behavior they often perform (i.e., mask wearing) magnifies this preexisting tendency. Egocentrism, but not self-enhancement and/or better-than-average effects, helps to explain the phenomenon. Theoretical contributions and substantive implications to health risk research and policy are discussed.

Political Orientation and Support for Social Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence from Brazil

*Ramos, Guilherme A., *Yan Vieites, Jorge Jacob, and Eduardo B. Andrade (2020), Brazilian Journal of Public Administration

Social distancing practices have been widely recommended to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the medical consensus, many citizens have resisted adhering to and/or supporting its implementation. While this resistance may stem from the non-negligible personal economic costs of implementing social distancing, we argue that it may also reside in more fundamental differences in normative principles and belief systems, as reflected by political orientation. In a study conducted in Brazil, we test the relative importance of these explanations by examining whether and how support for social distancing varies according to self-identified political orientation and personal economic vulnerability. Results show that while economic vulnerability does not influence support for social distancing, conservatives are systematically less supportive of these practices than liberals. Discrepancies in sensitivity to threats to the economic system help explain the phenomenon.

Work Under Review

In Search of Moderation: How Counter-Stereotypical Endorsers Attenuate Polarization Over Consumption-Related Policy Issues (Job Market Paper)

Ramos, Guilherme A., Yan Vieites, and Eduardo B. Andrade. Invited for 2nd round review.

In polarized societies, people have increasingly aligned their policy attitudes with the stereotypical attitudes of their political group (e.g., conservatives supporting gun rights, liberals supporting abortion). However, ingroups sometimes contradict such stereotypes, adopting positions that contrast with those informed by their political group (e.g., some liberals endorse gun rights, some conservatives endorse abortion). Can these counter-stereotypical endorsements reduce attitude polarization between liberals and conservatives? Four experiments conducted in a highly polarized society (Brazil; N = 2,176) demonstrate that policy endorsements made from counter-stereotypical sources (i.e., individuals who support a policy that most of their ingroups are perceived to oppose) attenuate the well-established association between political orientation and policy preferences. Critically, the attenuation happens in an asymmetric fashion—counter-stereotypical sources systematically persuade ingroups without dissuading outgroups. The phenomenon is observed for policies traditionally associated with both liberals (e.g., abortion rights) and conservatives (e.g., gun rights). Consistent with a direct ingroup identification process, the asymmetric polarization attenuation occurs even in the absence of belief changes about policy benefits (study 3) but disappears when people are prompted to question the ingroup’s membership (study 4). Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Sustainability Considerations, or Lack Thereof, in Consumer Decision Making

Ramos, Guilherme A.*, Larissa Elmor*, Yan Vieites, Bernardo Andretti, and Eduardo B. Andrade. Invited for 2nd round review.

Environmental sustainability is often depicted as an important attribute of consideration among consumers. Even if multiple barriers may prevent them from “walking the talk,” a common implicit assumption is that consumers think about sustainability, but then choose a less eco-friendly route once confronted with the non-trivial obstacles to sustainable consumption (e.g., higher prices). Absent from industry reports and scientific articles, however, is a systematic investigation on the extent to which sustainability thoughts even come to consumers’ minds at the time of choice. Four studies conducted in three countries (Brazil, UK, and US; N = 6,145) with a diverse set of consideration measurements (e.g., free and aided elicitation) demonstrate that most consumers overlook sustainability considerations when making decisions about a wide range of consumer goods. The low accessibility and salience of the sustainability attribute help explain the phenomenon. In line with it, sustainability considerations increase (a) among consumers with strong environmental goals (i.e., high on biospheric values and climate change beliefs), (b) for products prototypical of the sustainability cause (e.g., plastic bags), and (c) when consumers are prompted with sustainability cues prior to choice (e.g., eco-labels). Methodological, managerial, and policy implications are discussed, and a simple framework to promote sustainability consideration is proposed. 

Sociopolitical Polarization Reductions After Elections Are Similar in Extent to Correcting Misperceptions about Controversial Policies

Petherick, Anna, Guilherme A. Ramos, Rodrigo Furst, Rafael Goldszmidt, and Eduardo B. Andrade. Invited for 2nd round review.

Affective polarization is commonly associated with negative sociopolitical outcomes, such as discrimination and the erosion of democratic norms. We assess liking and perceived intelligence over 5 waves of an original, pre-registered, and representative survey with 4 panel waves (N = 1,938-2,931) conducted before, during, and after the 2022 Brazilian elections. Levels and trends of affective polarization vary by political group definition. We document intense feelings between those with intention to vote for Lula vs. Bolsonaro before the election campaign, which remained stable through the elections, thereafter fading slightly, and approximately symmetrically. Experimental treatments correcting misperceptions of ingroup and outgroup opinions about controversial issues reduced outgroup animosity. As per the 8 January 2023 riots, we found no evidence that the Brazilian team’s performance in the FIFA World Cup impacted affective polarization between Lulistas and Bolsonaristas overall (yet across matches, differing symbolic perceptions of the team shirt were associated with opposite trends).

The Robustness of Mental Accounting: A Global Perspective

Priolo, G., Federica Stablum, Martina Vascondio, [...], Guilherme A. Ramos, et al. Under review.

Mental accounting is a construct that seeks to explain incongruent decision-making in which individuals weigh financial values relative to the context, rather than simply the actual amount. The construct plays a central role in behavioral sciences and challenges posed to classical economic theories. This preregistered work tests the replicability of seven studies covering the most important effects associated with mental accounting, such as emotion, relative values, and sunk costs. Across 5,589 participants from 21 countries, hierarchical Bayesian meta-analysis showed a 100% replication rate across all seven. Unpooled analysis revealed a 90.5% replication rate (133 out of 147 effects). Effect sizes were only slightly weaker than the original studies. Exploratory analysis on the moderating effects of financial literacy and socio-demographic information was inconclusive, thus reiterating mental accounting as a pervasive phenomenon. Findings also support the robustness of the original studies across time and culture, confirming the role of mental accounting as a critical driver of human decision-making.

Working Papers

“Analytical Thinking Reduces Partisan Bias in the Sharing of Fake News”, with Leaf Van Boven

“Analytic Ecosystems Increase Adherence to Vaccine Public Health Guidance”, with Leaf Van Boven, David Sherman, Ellen Peters, Heejung S. Kim, and David Markowitz