How Techniques of Neutralization Legitimize Norm- and Attitude-Inconsistent Consumer Behavior

Gruber, Verena and Schlegelmilch, Bodo B. ORCID: (2013) How Techniques of Neutralization Legitimize Norm- and Attitude-Inconsistent Consumer Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics. ISSN 1573-0697


Download (684kB)


In accordance with societal norms and values, consumers readily indicate their positive attitudes towards sustainability. However, they hardly take sustainability into account when engaging in exchange relationships with companies. To shed light on this paradox, this paper investigates whether defense mechanisms and the more specific concept of neutralization techniques can explain the discrepancy between societal norms and actual behavior. A multi-method qualitative research design provides rich insights into consumers' underlying cognitive processes and how they make sense of their attitude-behavior divergences. Drawing on the Ways Model of account-taking, which is advanced to a Cycle Model, the findings illustrate how neutralization strategies are used to legitimize inconsistencies between norm-conforming attitudes and actual behavior. Furthermore, the paper discusses how the repetitive reinforcement of neutralizing patterns and feedback loops between individuals and society are linked to the rise of anomic consumer behavior.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The original publication is available at To see the final version of this paper please visit the publisher's website. Access to the published version may require a subscription.
Keywords: Attitude-behavior inconsistencies / Consumer behavior / Defense mechanisms / Social learning theory / Qualitative methods
Divisions: Departments > Marketing > Internationales Marketing Management > Schlegelmilch
Version of the Document: Accepted for Publication
Variance from Published Version: Major
Depositing User: ePub Administrator
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2013 08:39
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2019 09:53
Related URLs:


View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics