Previous research has shown that people tend to perceive organic consumers as more moral and higher status than conventional consumers. We propose that organic consumption might have reputational costs as well. Drawing from research on do-gooder derogation, virtue signaling, and cynicism, we suggest that people might see organic consumption as driven not only by altruistic but also by selfish – specifically, impression management – motives. In Study 1, participants rated organic (vs. conventional) consumers as having stronger altruistic concerns (for the environment, animal welfare, and social justice), as well as stronger impression management motives: organic (vs. conventional) consumers were seen as trying to appear more moral and high-status than they actually were. In Study 2, we separately assessed participants' perception of organic (vs. conventional) consumers’ actual (vs. signaled) levels of morality and status. Organic consumers were perceived as trying to appear as more moral (but not more high-status) than they actually were, whereas conventional consumers were perceived as being honest in the impressions they tried to make. These results demonstrate that organic consumption might have not only positive, but also negative, reputational consequences.
- Organic consumption
- Social perception