How Consumers Justify Their Unethical Behavior: The Role of Moral Recognition Strategies (Moral Rationalization, and Decoupling), Complemented by Culture, on the Purchase of Counterfeits in Pakistan

Usman Tanveer, Danish Ahmed Siddiqui


Moral recognition, is defined as a person’s description of a condition as ethical dilemma. However, people will not always interpret situations as ethical problems in the same way with the same force under all circumstances. The literature suggests that when two conditions of acceptance of ethics (moral rationalization and decoupling) are met, people will define the situation as a ethical problem differently. In the moral system, people use it to turn immoral acts into less immoral acts. Therefore, it allows them to violate ethical standards while maintaining a certain standard of conduct such as buying counterfeit goods because of their low prices. Here, consumers are more likely to make a profit by rearranging their actions for less ethical, which means seeking appropriate ethical reasons (including ethical justification, non-professional language, beneficial comparisons, migration of responsibilities, distribution of responsibility, distortion of results, prosecution; (Bandura et al., 1996), to coordinate adjustments and conditions, and to reach a judgment. Moral decoupling is defined as a psychological process chosen to prevent misconduct, in which one separates the judgment of performance from judgments of morality (Bhattacharjee et al., 2013). When people use this strategy, they focus on social benefits (e.g., image, use of status, etc.) as well as economic benefits (e.g., visual fashion content, physical appearance, performance, scarcity, etc. Chen et. al. (2018) linked these two strategies in an empirical assessment to explore the effect of dimensions of moral recognition (moral rationalization and moral decoupling) on counterfeit purchases mediated by moral judgment and perceived benefits respectively. We modified the Chen model with the complementary effect of materialistic culture in this relationship. We argue that moral recognition firstly affects counterfeit purchase (CP) through Moral rationalization, and then through moral judgment in a two-step mediation. Secondly, through moral decoupling and further through perceived benefits. Thirdly, directly affecting CP complemented by materialistic culture as a moderator. Empirical validity was established by conducting a survey employing a close-ended questionnaire. Data was collected from 230 consumers and analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis and structured equation modeling. The results suggested that moral recognition seems to limit purchase intention (PI) directly. Similarly, it neutralizes to Moral Rationalization (MR), and Decoupling (MD) behaviors. Moreover, MR tends to positively affect PI both directly, and well as indirectly through moral judgment (MJ). Similarly, MD also has a direct and positive effect on PI, as well as perceived benefits (PB), however, PB and PI relationship was not substantiated. Hence, MR seems to negatively affect PI through MD, as well as through MR and MJ as a first and second-order mediator. Lastly, materialism seems to promote the counterfeit purchase, at the same time positively complement the effect of MR on PI, in a way that MR would have a more pronounced effect on PI in case of the higher materialistic consumer.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Usman Tanveer, Danish Ahmed Siddiqui

International Journal of Industrial Marketing  ISSN 2162-3066


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