Ethical Dissonance in Environmental Advertising: Moderating Effects of self-benefit Versus other-benefit Appeals

Document Type



environmental advertising; ethical dissonance; guilt; other-benefit appeals; self-benefit appeals; shame

Identifier Data



Taylor & Francis Online

Publication Source

International Journal of Advertising


The authors examine how consumers react to online prosocial advertising reminding them that they have violated ethical standards. Findings show that consumers feel ethical dissonance when recognizing that they have made uncivil online comments or have stood by while others did so. To alleviate the discomfort, they are likely to support a subsequent although unrelated environmental campaign. The effect is contingent upon whether the second message indicates that the advocated actions will benefit others or consumers alone. Specifically, ethical dissonance in one domain motivates consumers to adopt ethical behaviours in another domain, but only when the second domain appears to benefit others. In contrast, self-benefit appeals may cause ethical dissonance to backfire, so that consumers reject the subsequent environmental campaign. Mediational analyses show that heightened guilt (shame) drives the positive (negative) effects of other (self)-benefit appeals. Theoretical implications and ideas for future research are discussed.