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American Behavioral Scientist

Green Shopping : For Selfish Reasons or the Common Good?

John Thøgersen American Behavioral Scientist 2011 55: 1052 DOI: 10.1177/0002764211407903

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ABS40790

ABS55810.1177/0002764211407903Thøgersen American Behavioral Scientist
ABS55810.1177/0002764211407903Thøgersen American Behavioral Scientist

Article

Green Shopping:

For Selfish Reasons or the Common Good?

John Thøgersen 1

Abstract

American Behavioral Scientist 55(8) 1052 –1076 © 2011 SAGE Publications Reprints and permission: http://www. sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0002764211407903 http://abs.sagepub.com

3 ABS40790 ABS55810.1177/0002764211407903Thøgersen American Behavioral Scientist Article Green Shopping: For Selfish Reasons or the Common Good?abs.sagepub.com by guest on September 1, 2011 " id="pdf-obj-1-23" src="pdf-obj-1-23.jpg">

Findings suggesting that consumers buy “green” products, such as organic foods, for selfish reasons are usually accepted at face value. In this article, the author argues that the evidence backing this claim is questionable and that it reflects post hoc rationalizations and self-presentation biases on behalf of respondents. Knowing that one has incurred substantial personal costs by contributing to a worthy cause can create an uneasiness that one is motivated to relieve, especially when one is uncertain about the ultimate impact of this contribution. A possible coping strategy is to adjust one’s beliefs about intangible private benefits in a way that justifies (bolsters) one’s purchasing decision. A survey study among a representative sample of approximately 4,000 respondents from four European countries (Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom, and Italy) confirmed that this is exactly what “green” consumers do. On the basis of Schwartz’s comprehensive Picture Value Questionnaire, it is also found that buying organic food is strongly, consistently, and positively related to unselfish values (i.e., universalism) but not selfish values (e.g., status, security, pleasure). This suggests that consumers at least start to buy these products for unselfish reasons (the common good). However, after having done so, they seem to bolster their beliefs about private benefits to preserve a self-image of being a competent and rational person.

Keywords

green shopping, confirmation bias, bolstering, values, organic food, survey

Prosocial behavior is not easily reconciled with the neoclassical paradigm’s parable of a selfish, optimizing (i.e., rational) decision maker. Therefore, scholars in the neoclas- sical tradition attempt to explain prosocial behavior as selfishness in disguise (e.g., the

  • 1 Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

Corresponding Author:

John Thøgersen, Haslegaardsvej 10, DK-8210 Aarhus V, Denmark Email: jbt@asb.dk

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“warm glow” of giving), or they marginalize it by claiming that it rarely occurs in practice (cf. Etzioni, 2011 [this issue]). This article discusses a specific, but quite com- mon, case of marginalization: the reduction of proenvironmental behavior to selfish behavior. Many journalists, politicians, and other professionals are guilty of this type of marginalization, but so are many empirical researchers who are sloppy in their interpre- tation of the evidence they have collected. Take as a concrete example the finding that consumers buy organic food products, one of recent years’ most successful “green” product categories, because they believe they are healthier, taste better, or are of superior quality in other ways, that is, for selfish reasons. Such findings are usually accepted at face value, both when they are based on survey studies (e.g., Magnusson, Arvola, Hursti, Åberg, & Sjöden, 2001, 2003; McEachern & McClean, 2002) and when they are based on qualitative research (e.g., Baker, Thompson, & Engelken, 2004; Fotopoulos, Krystallis, & Ness, 2003; Makatouni, 2002; Zanoli & Naspetti, 2002). However, qualitative interviews and cor- relational survey data are obviously mute about causality. Hence, in spite of appear- ance, the claim that most people’s proenvironmental behavior, such as buying organic food products, is primarily motivated by selfish reasons actually lacks a sound empir- ical backing. Furthermore, as will be argued in the following, an equally valid alter- native interpretation of these empirical findings exists. Selfishness is obviously an aspect of human nature. Nothing is more salient than one’s own needs and wants. Hence, acting in a prosocial way depends on the ability to focus attention on “below-the-surface” aspects of a situation, to go beyond the super- ficial, and this requires cognitive skill and maturity (Kohlberg, 1984). This also means that selfishness is viewed as the default, and a claim that people do something for self- ish reasons hardly needs empirical proof. That people act out of self-interest is viewed as “common sense,” and people are usually not very critical of information that they perceive as common sense. This common-sense view was recently expressed by an experienced consultant in the area of green campaigning:

An accurate basic assumption might be that most people are essentially selfish, which is a natural human reaction and indeed a natural evolutionary process for any animal. Quality of life for oneself and one’s dependants [sic] is always a key driving force for anyone. Any benefits from environmental behaviour, and there should be benefits from every environmental behaviour, must be tangible, imme- diate and specific to the person carrying out the behaviour. Benefits at the society level are unlikely to be a significant driver of change; benefits should be as localised as possible. (Hounsham, 2006, p. 139)

In addition to selfishness being perceived as the default explanation for human behavior, the marginalization of true prosocial behavior is facilitated by the neoclassi- cal model of the rational decision maker having become a normative ideal, at least in the Western, industrialized world, representing the correct, educated, competent way of making decisions. Results that confirm common sense as well as the normative ideal of

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decision making are likely to receive less critical scrutiny in empirical research than results suggesting that people act in a prosocial way for moral or ethical reasons—an instance of the well-known confirmation bias (Nickerson, 1998). This is true even among noneconomists and scholars who do not consider themselves proponents of the neoclassical paradigm. An alternative to the neoclassical view is that there can be both selfish and unself- ish reasons for acting in a prosocial way, such as buying green consumer products (e.g., Rohrschneider, 1988; Stern, Dietz, & Kalof, 1993). For example, organic food products are produced in a way that reduces harm to the environment and respects the welfare of farm animals. This is what basically distinguishes them from conventional food products. Good taste and healthiness is something organic food shares with other food products. Hence, it seems plausible that consumers buy organic food products at least partly for ethical reasons. But why do selfish reasons then seem to be much more important for consumer choices, according to much empirical research? It is suggested here that rather than reflecting consumer motives for proenvironmen- tal behavior, these findings reflect participants’ attempts to relieve an uneasiness that they feel by postrationalizing their behavior. This uneasiness stems from knowing that one has paid a premium price, or borne other substantial costs, for a contribution to a worthy cause while knowing that it is uncertain whether the contribution has any effect on the cause. As will be elaborated in the following, consumers’ attempts to cope with this uneasiness can explain biased self-reports in the direction of emphasizing selfish reasons and de-emphasizing unselfish reasons for this behavior. In the following, the arguments for this alternative interpretation of the data on motives for proenvironmental behavior are unfolded and empirical evidence to support them presented. Using organic food products as the example, evidence will be presented that strongly suggests that consumers adjust their beliefs about private benefits of buying green products in a favorable direction “after the fact,” that is, as a consequence (rather than an antecedent) of buying these products. Furthermore, a survey-based method for cutting through the veil of consumer self-deception and assessing the true nature of their basic motives for purchasing green products (i.e., for selfish reasons or “the common good”) is demonstrated.

The Argument

Most of the evidence backing the claim that buying green products is (primarily) moti- vated by self-interest is responses either to questionnaire items describing possible beliefs about the consequences of performing this behavior (e.g., Magnusson et al., 2003; McEachern & McClean, 2002) or to open questions probing into why particular product attributes are important to the individual (e.g., Baker et al., 2004; Fotopoulos et al., 2003; Makatouni, 2002; Zanoli & Naspetti, 2002). The most important reasons for buying green organic food products, according to the cited studies, are private ben- efits, such as health or better taste. The validity of responses emphasizing these benefits are questioned by the facts, however:

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  • 1. There is little scientific evidence backing health claims regarding organic food (Williams, 2002), and therefore, such claims are rarely made in ads or other promotional material.

  • 2. Organic foods usually do not fare particularly well in blind tastes (Bourn & Prescott, 2002; Lawlor, Sheehan, Delahunty, Kerry, & Morrissey, 2003; Scholderer, Nielsen, Bredahl, Claud-Magnussen, & Lindahl, 2004). 1

Hence, it seems that (some) consumers’ favorable beliefs about these private benefits must be derived from something other than hard facts or personal experiences. There is plenty of empirical evidence documenting that individuals have a strong tendency to selectively attend to, scrutinize, and process information in a way that bolsters their previously formed attitudes and justifies past behaviors (Abelson, 1959; Aronson, 1969; Jain & Maheswaran, 2000; Kunda, 1990; Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979). Among the different theories that have been suggested to account for impacts of past behavior and attitudes on a person’s beliefs about an object, the most com- prehensive and well documented is Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory (cf. Kunda, 1990). According to cognitive dissonance theory, unfavorable beliefs about green consumer products, such as the fact that they are usually quite a bit more expensive than their con- ventional counterparts, are likely to produce an unpleasant state of arousal (i.e., cogni- tive dissonance) in consumers who buy them. Being unpleasant, cognitive dissonance motivates consumers to make an effort to reduce it. When the source of the disso- nance is a freely chosen behavior, bolstering (Abelson, 1959; Sherman & Gorkin, 1980) the attitude reflected in the behavior through selectively adding supporting beliefs to the consumers’ cognitive structure or strengthening existing favorable beliefs is a common strategy (for a review of the evidence, see Harmon-Jones & Mills, 1999). Hence, I suggest that consumers who have bought green products tend to bolster their cognitive structure with favorable beliefs to reduce the anxiety produced by knowing that one has paid a premium price for the green product and/or by other unfavorable attributes of the chosen alternative. The effectiveness of this strategy, of course, depends on how easy it is to distort real- ity. In cases such as food products, in which important attributes are either subjective (e.g., taste) or difficult to prove or disprove (e.g., healthiness), reality offers little pro- tection against motivated reasoning and bolstering. In principle, beliefs about both private and societal consequences can be used to bolster previous attitudes and behaviors. However, there is reason to expect that when the discomfort is produced by knowing that one has paid a premium price for a green product, consumers are especially inclined to bolster their cognitive structure with beliefs about private benefits. According to Aronson’s (1999) revision of cognitive dissonance theory, cognitive dissonance is produced not by just any inconsistency but only if the inconsistency threatens important aspects of one’s self-concept, such as being a competent, reliable, and moral person. In such cases, cognitive dissonance motivates an effort specifically

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targeted at restoring the threatened aspects of the self-concept. In the case of paying a premium price for a green product, what is threatened is the ability to view oneself as competent and rational rather than as a fool (cf. Kunda, 1990), whereas the ability to view oneself as moral and idealistic is hardly at risk. If buying a green product leads to important private benefits, it could be prudent to do so, even at a premium price. Hence, convincing oneself that, say, organic food is indeed healthy and tasty is a possible strategy for the organic consumer to reduce the threat to his or her self-concept as a competent person that arises from knowing that one paid the premium price.

Hypotheses

The presented arguments are sufficient to demonstrate that consumers’ self-reports indicating that they primarily buy green products (including organic food) for selfish reasons should not be accepted at face value. The next step is to develop and test hypotheses regarding the alternative interpretation. From the theory and research reviewed in the former section, it follows that consum- ers who have bought a green product at a premium price are inclined to justify their behavior by distorting their beliefs about consequences of doing so. It also follows that consumers will be most successful distorting beliefs about intangible product charac- teristics, for which there is no easy “reality check.” From this, I derive the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: After buying a green product, consumers distort their beliefs about consequences of doing so in a favorable direction in an attempt to justify their behavior and protect a favorable self-concept. The distortion of beliefs will be most pronounced for intangible consequences, for which there is no easy reality check.

Green products are defined by being better for the environment. It is an important assumption behind the alternative explanation that this may actually be the (unselfish) reason consumers buy, or at least start to buy, these products. However, because of the way consumers cope with the cognitive dissonance they experience after having bought green products, researchers need to cut through a veil of post-rationalizations and self-deception to reveal their true motives. The procedure proposed here for reveal- ing consumers’ true motives is to investigate the relationships between the behavior and the individual’s most stable life goals or values. Research on basic human values defines these as “desirable, transsituational goals, varying in importance, that serve as guiding principles in people’s lives” (Schwartz et al., 2001, p. 521). During the past two decades, Shalom Schwartz and his col- leagues have carried out an impressive research project that has identified a compre- hensive and cross-culturally valid set of basic human values and have developed several comprehensive instruments for measuring them (e.g., Schwartz, 1992, 1994, 2005;

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Schwartz et al., 2001). Because of their content, stability, and comprehensiveness, Schwartz’s value instruments are useful for the present purpose. Schwartz’s instruments aim to capture the full range of values identified by value research worldwide. All value items are formulated as abstract desirable goals that a person might strive for, and there is no reference to specific behaviors (such as buying green products or organic food products) in any of the items. Hence, when responded to individually and anonymously, apart from random measurement error and possible variations in the use of the scale, there is no reason to expect that responses should reflect something other than the individual’s own goals and standards of judgment, that is, his or her true value priorities. A person’s basic value priorities are rarely influenced by situation-specific events, such as whether or not he or she has bought particular green products. On the other hand, they have been shown to guide behavior in a broad sense (e.g., Bardi & Schwartz, 2003; Schwartz, 1996), including proenvironmental behavior (Thøgersen & Ölander, 2002). For example, a person for whom the attainment of hedonic pleasure is a highly prioritized life goal should be more likely than people with different priorities to attend to, and to buy, products that afford hedonic pleasures. A person whose value priorities emphasize personal and general security should be more likely to attend to, and to buy, products affording security from health threats, and so on. Hence, one can answer the question whether buying green products is related to self- ish or to unselfish life goals or values by means of Schwartz’s value instruments. If consumers primarily buy these products for selfish reasons, people whose value pri- orities emphasize relevant selfish goals should be more likely to buy the green prod- ucts than people who give lower priority to these goals as guiding principles in their life. For example, if people buy a particular type of green product for status reasons, status-oriented people should be more inclined to buy the products than other peo- ple, everything else being equal. Status-oriented people give relatively high priority to the value types that Schwartz (1992, 1994, 2005; Schwartz et al., 2001) terms “achievement” and “power.” If consumers primarily buy, say, organic food products for taste or health reasons, more hedonistic or risk-averse consumers, respectively, should be particularly inclined to buy the product, everything else being equal. Hence, in the latter cases, buying organic food should correlate positively with values in the motivational domains “hedonism” and “security.” Actually, extant research does not support the existence of a positive relationship between selfish values and proenvironmental behavior. On the contrary, several studies have reported a positive relationship between environmentally responsible behaviors and the unselfish life goals reflected in the value domain that Schwartz terms “universalism” (e.g., Karp, 1996; Stern & Dietz, 1994; Thøgersen & Ölander, 2002). Schwartz (1994) defines universalism as “understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature” (p. 22; emphasis in original). Hence, universalism captures concern for the welfare of anonymous others, including future generations, and for nature, including farm animals. In other words, universalism captures concern for the common good. A strong relationship between universalism and buying green

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products is consistent with the proposition that consumers basically buy, or at least started to buy, green products because they are environment friendly, that is, for unselfish reasons. Hence, the second hypothesis to be tested is as follows:

Hypothesis 2: The purchase of a green product is linked to the strength of a person’s unselfish, rather than to his or her selfish, life goals (values).

The Study

In this study, consumers’ post-rationalization (bolstering) and the value basis for their purchase are investigated with regard to organic food products. Organic food was chosen as the case because this product category was created as a response to concerns about environmental and other problems created by modern, intensive agriculture and because it is a relatively large and rapidly growing green product category in many countries in Europe and North America (Willer, Yussefi-Menzler, & Sorensen, 2008). National certification schemes for organic food production require production meth- ods that are less harmful to the environment and more concerned with animal welfare than conventional methods. To increase the generality of the findings, data from four (western European) coun- tries are analyzed: Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy. This sample of countries spans from north to south in Europe and represent four different language areas and also four different food cultures (Askegaard & Madsen, 1998). To the extent that results are indeed cross-nationally valid, we can discard the possibility that they can be attributed to country-specific cultural or structural idiosyncrasies.

Method

Survey data collected in four western European countries are used for the study. The questionnaire contained belief items; a measure of buying frequency for organic food as a product category; items asking how long the person had bought organic food, if at all; and questions about basic human values. It also contained questions not used for the present study. The questionnaire was developed in English and translated into the language of each country. To check the validity of the translations, questionnaires were back-translated into English.

Participants

In each of the countries, approximately 1,000 respondents completed questionnaires distributed by a professional market research company. The research population con- sisted of individuals at least 18 years old in charge of or who shared the responsibility for the household’s grocery shopping. If the responsibility was shared, the person with the next birthday was asked to complete the questionnaire. Apart from the requirement to deliver a representative sample, the specific recruitment procedure was left to the

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Table 1. Demographic Profiles by Country (in percentages)

Italy

Denmark

United Kingdom

Germany

Gender

Male

43.7

24.9

23.6

48.3

Female

56.3

75.1

76.4

51.7

Total

100

100

100

100

Age group

18-30

19.8

9.9

21.4

21.4

31-45

38.9

33.0

33.7

28.9

46-65

35.8

41.6

35.3

33.1

>65

5.5

15.5

9.6

16.6

Total

100

100

100

100

City area

>500,000

44.5

8.6

15.3

14.7

100,000-499,999

34.6

10.7

30.0

18.8

10,000-99,999

15.6

46.2

44.7

37.6

<10,000

5.4

34.4

10.1

28.9

Total

100

12.0

100

100

100

Number of people in household 1 person

17.3

18.5

25.0

  • 2 28.5

people

37.8

34.1

42.5

  • 3 59.6

or more

45.0

47.4

32.5

Total

100

100

100

100

market research company and hence differed between countries (random in some, stratified random in other countries). 2 Printed questionnaires were delivered to each respondent either by mail with a prepaid return envelope or by hand, in which case it was collected when the respondent had completed the questionnaire. A demographic profile of each country sample is shown in Table 1.

Testing Hypothesis 1

Variables

Buying experience with regard to organic food was measured by the following item:

If you buy organic foods, please estimate for how many months or years you have been buying them. (1) Less than 3 months, (2) 3-6 months, (3) less than a year, but more than 6 months, (4) 1-2 years, (5) 3-5 years, (6) more than 5 years.

Nonbuyers were coded as 0. The means and standard deviations for buying experience in the four countries are reported in Table 2. For the hypothesis test, the experience

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Table 2. Organic Buying Behavior and Organic Buying Experience by Country

 

Length of

 

Buying behavior a

 

experience b

 

N

M

SD

M

SD

Denmark

1,086

3.95

1.293

4.06

1.994

United Kingdom

999

2.92

1.352

2.41

2.091

Germany

1,008

3.23

1.308

3.50

2.194

Italy

1,001

2.85

1.459

2.35

2.266

Total

4,094

3.25

1.424

3.11

2.257

a Scale from 1 = I have never bought, nor considered buying organic food to 6 = I buy organic foods always when possible. b Scale from 0 = do not buy organic food to 6 = more than 5 years.

scale was reduced to three points: 1 = not buying organic food (no experience), 2 = bought organic food up to 6 months (short experience), or 3 = bought organic food more than 6 months (long experience). As recommended by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980), we used an open-ended question- naire format to achieve a list of the population’s “modal beliefs” about the consequences of buying organic food. The nine most frequently mentioned beliefs were included in the questionnaire, and participants were asked to rate them on a 7-point scale with the endpoints extremely unlikely (1) and extremely likely (7). The list included tangible “search attributes,” such as the price and the appearance of the products, and intangible “credence attributes,” such as environmental friendliness and health (Darby & Karni, 1973). Because beliefs such as these are probably held at the level of a specific product, the belief items referred specifically to organic tomatoes in a random half of the sample and organic tomato sauce in the other half. Because organic tomato sauce is an uncom- mon product in most of the countries, which makes consumer responses more hypo- thetical in this case, only the results regarding fresh tomatoes are used for the present purpose. Item formulations, means, and standard deviations by country and buying experience are reported in Table 3. The country differences in beliefs are not important for the present discussion and are therefore not commented on any further, except when they interact with the experience effect.

Results

Hypothesis 1 stated that after buying a green product, consumers tend to distort their beliefs about consequences of doing so in a favorable direction, justifying their behav- ior. It was added that this tendency to postrationalize is especially pronounced for intangible product attributes, for which there is no easy reality check. This hypothesis was tested by means of MANOVA of the relationship between beliefs about the con- sequences of buying organic tomatoes and buying experience, using the GLM (gener- alized linear model) module of SPSS 16. Country of residence was also controlled.

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(continued)

Total (N = 2,061)

1.554

1.094

1.646

1.349

1.683

5.07

5.04

5.64

6.19

4.55

Long experience (n = 1,356)

1.418

1.666

1.052

1.679

1.135

5.94 b

5.37 b

5.15 c

4.55

6.21

Table 3. Beliefs About Consequences of Buying Organic Tomatoes by Country and Length of Buying Experience

Short experience (n = 127)

.977

1.308

1.656

1.355

1.605

5.56 b

5.23 b

5.78 b

4.54

6.32

No experience ( n = 578)

1.600

1.532

1.208

1.689

1.591

4.31 a

4.90 a

4.66 a

4.54

6.12

Italy (n = 501)

1.570

1.708

1.188

1.625

1.411

5.00

6.08

5.04

5.49

4.65

Germany (n = 505)

1.574

1.659

1.641

1.371

1.011

5.60

6.40

5.22

4.55

4.85

United Kingdom (n = 500)

1.334

1.185

1.283

1.543

1.401

6.00

5.20

4.46

5.55

5.65

Denmark (n = 555)

1.667

1.298

1.898

1.623

.943

4.70

5.89

6.29

4.53

4.83

Taste better than conventional ones

Are free from chemicals, such as residues from fertilizers, pesticides

better for the environment than

Are produced in a way that is

Keep fr esh for less time than

How likely is it that organic tomatoes . . .

Are more expensive than

are conventional ones

conventional ones

conventional ones

  • M SD

  • M SD

  • M SD

  • M SD

  • M SD

1061

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Total (N = 2,061)

Note: On a 7-point scale with the endpoints extremely unlikely (1) and extremely likely (7). Post-hoc tests of differences between means are only reported

1.670

1.446

1.755

1.463

3.97

4.08

5.39

5.45

Long experience (n = 1,356)

1.294

1.664

1.290

1.799

5.68 b

4.00 b

3.79 b

5.71 c

Shor t experience (n = 127)

1.347

1.840

1.622

1.513

5.40 b

5.40 b

4.25

4.13

for experience groups. Means that are marked with different superscripted letters are significantly different, p < .05.

No experience (n = 578)

1.614

1.582

1.645

1.631

4.84 a

4.25 a

4.34 a

4.73 a

Italy (n = 501)

1.390

1.625

1.603

1.483

5.62

5.52

4.85

4.53

Germany (n = 505)

1.334

1.650

1.558

1.516

4.25

5.65

4.13

5.23

United Kingdom ( n = 500)

1.724

1.350

1.398

1.693

5.38

3.45

3.73

5.41

Denmark (n = 555)

1.577

1.444

1.773

1.621

3.67

5.44

3.65

5.13

Are healthier than conventional ones

Sold as organic are not r eally

How likely is it that organic

Look less attractive than

Table 3. (continued)

Are more natural than

conventional ones

conventional ones

.

. .

tomatoes

organic

  • M SD

  • M SD

  • M SD

  • M SD

1062

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The MANOVA revealed significant differences in beliefs between both experience groups, F(18, 4040) = 20.899, p < .001, and countries, F(27, 5900) = 9.853, p < .001. Because of the very large sample, the small effect of the Experience × Country interac- tion was also significant, F(54, 10304) = 1.637, p < .01. The test of the between-subjects effects show that the significant interaction effect was limited to three beliefs: “keep fresh for less time than conventional ones,” “look less attractive than conventional ones,” and “sold as ‘organic’ are not really organic.” Only regarding the last of these three beliefs is the direct effect of buying experience significant. A separate analysis for each country revealed that the significant interaction regard- ing the first two beliefs was the product of the beliefs’ being significantly related to buying experience in one of the four countries, Germany and the United Kingdom, respectively. In the third case, the significant interaction was attributable to the belief’s not being significantly related to buying experience in Italy (as opposed to in the other three countries). These exceptions from the general pattern will be commented on dur- ing the discussion of the direct effect of buying experience on beliefs in the group of four countries as a whole. The MANOVA revealed that six of the nine beliefs are significantly related to buy- ing experience. The three beliefs that are, in general, not significantly related to buying experience are beliefs about the price (expensiveness), F = 1.656, p = .24; shelf life, F = 0.50, p = .95; and appearance, F = 2.049, p = .13, of organic tomatoes. These are all beliefs about tangible (search and, with regard to shelf life, experience; cf. Darby & Karni, 1973) product characteristics, which are difficult to distort, given the readily available reality check. Hence, the finding that these beliefs are unrelated or weakly related to buying experience is consistent with Hypothesis 1. The significant interaction effect with regard to two of these three beliefs shows that they are not totally immune to experience effects, however. In Germany, beliefs about the shelf life are significantly more favorable among those with long experience com- pared to no experience, which suggests a weak experience effect. In the United Kingdom, those with short experience had significantly less favorable beliefs about the appearance of organic tomatoes than the two other groups, which do not differ significantly. This pattern is not easy to explain and may be a statistical artifact, which could be because the short experience group was quite small. Hence, none of these deviations from the gen- eral pattern threaten the general conclusion that beliefs about tangible product character- istics are unrelated or weakly related to buying experience. In the other six cases, belief strength is significantly related to buying experience. Compared to consumers with no experience, consumers who have experience with buying organic food hold more favorable beliefs about organic tomatoes’ environmen- tal friendliness, F = 115.165, p < .001; naturalness, F = 94.713, p < .001; taste, F = 123.513, p < .001; healthiness, F = 97.424, p < .001; content of pesticide residues, F = 35.521, p < .001; and the risk that tomatoes sold as organic are not really organic, F = 24.383, p < .001. All of these beliefs regard intangible aspects of the products, so-called credence attributes (Darby & Karni, 1973). Hence, the finding that

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they are more favorable among those with buying experience than among those with- out is consistent with Hypothesis 1. An inspection of the means in Table 3, and the post hoc tests, reveals different pat- terns of relationships between beliefs and experience. Besides the three of the nine beliefs that are not significantly related to buying experience, most beliefs become gradually more favorable with experience. Consumers who started to buy organic food recently hold more favorable beliefs than those who do not buy organic food, and those who have bought organic food for a long time hold even more favorable beliefs. However, only for one belief (naturalness) are all group differences significant. For another belief (the risk that tomatoes sold as organic are not really organic), the differ- ence between the first and the last group is significant, whereas the intermediary group is not significantly different from either of the two extreme groups. Hence, the experi- ence effect is weaker in this case, and in Italy, it is not significant. Beliefs about taste, environment, and health consequences are more favorable among consumers who buy organic food in comparison to those who do not buy organic food, but the difference between consumers who have bought organic food for a short and a long time is not significant. Hence, what matters in these cases seems to be whether the consumer has bought organic food products, not how long they have done so. In one case, regarding content of pesticide residues, consumers with a short buying expe- rience held significantly more favorable beliefs than consumers with a long buying experience.

Discussion

The findings show that across four different countries, consumer beliefs about organic food products differ between buyers and nonbuyers, whereby the former hold more favorable beliefs than the latter. This is consistent with the predictions of cognitive dissonance theory and with Hypothesis 1. The analyzed data contain no information about the direction of the causality. Hence, a possible alternative explanation for the “experience effect” is that consumers holding more favorable beliefs started to buy the green product earlier. However, although this explanation can account for some of the findings, the framework suggested here allows for a more complete interpretation of the data. First, whereas cognitive dissonance the- ory can explain why some beliefs are related and some unrelated to experience (the reality check), the alternative explanation cannot. Second, if the experience effect is attributable to consumers’ starting to buy organic food products earlier the more favorable their beliefs, consumers who have bought these products for a long time should hold more favorable beliefs than those who have bought them for a short time only. However, this expectation was confirmed for only one of the nine beliefs. The nonlinear relationships found between belief strength and experience—especially regarding taste, environment, and health consequences—make perfect sense in a cognitive dissonance framework (i.e., bolstering is a process that takes [more or less] time to work itself out, but even- tually, it will be completed), whereas it is puzzling in the alternative framework.

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Hence, all in all, the findings support the proposition that after starting to buy organic food products, consumers enter a process of motivated reasoning, distorting their belief structure and bolstering their previously performed behavior. This bolstering process can explain why qualitative and correlation studies often find that organic buying behavior is positively related to beliefs about organic food products’ health and taste qualities (i.e., selfish reasons), in spite of the lack of scientific support for the claim that they are superior to conventional products on these attributes.

Testing Hypothesis 2

Hypothesis 2 states that the purchase of a “green” product is linked to the strength of a person’s unselfish, rather than to his or her selfish, life goals (values). This hypoth- esis is tested by analyzing relationships between consumers’ basic values, as mea- sured by (a subset of) Schwartz’s Picture Value Questionnaire (PVQ; Schwartz, 2005; Schwartz et al., 2001), and their self-reported purchase of organic food products. Structural equation modeling (SEM), using AMOS 16, is used for this purpose. The main advantage of SEM is that it is possible to explicitly account for measurement error when a latent variable of interest is represented by multiple manifest variables. Measures of how well the implied variance-covariance matrix, based on the parameter estimates, reflects the observed sample variance-covariance matrix can be used to determine whether the hypothesized model gives an acceptable representation of the analyzed data. AMOS is one of the first applications that offered full information maxi- mum likelihood (FIML) to deal with item nonresponse. Nonresponse (full as well as item) reduces statistical power and may lead to biased parameter estimates. In recent years, extensive research into ways of dealing with missing data suggests that currently, FIML is the most effective method to deal with missing data attributable to item non- response not only because it minimizes the loss of information and, hence, statistical power, but also because it leads to the most unbiased parameter estimates (Arbuckle, 1996), even in the case of non-normal data (Enders, 2001). The usual assumptions about uncorrelated error terms and a simple structure factor pattern in the measurement model are applied. When there is only one item represent- ing a latent construct, as with behavior in the present study, the measurement error cannot be estimated but has to be set to a fixed value. In this case, I fixed the error variance to zero.

Variables

Buying behavior as regards organic food was measured by a single item:

From the following alternatives, please choose the one that best describes your shopping habits as regards organic food: (1) I have never bought, nor considered buying organic food, (2) I have not yet bought, but I have considered buying organic food, (3) I buy organic foods few times a year, (4) I buy organic foods

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one or a couple of times a month, (5) I buy organic foods weekly, (6) I buy organic foods always when possible.

An additional response alternative, “I have bought organic foods, but will not any more” was coded as 2 to achieve a monotonic scale. The mean values and standard deviations for buying behavior in the four countries are reported in Table 2. Notice that the four countries rank identically with regard to buying behavior and buying experience. Danish consumers buy the most organic food and have done so for the longest time, followed by Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy as the last of the four. This ranking is consistent with independent statistics of the sale of organic food in the four countries (Willer et al., 2008). For measuring values, a shortened version of Schwartz’s PVQ (Schwartz, 2005; Schwartz et al., 2001) was used. The PVQ, which was developed as a less demand - ing alternative to Schwartz’s Value Survey, (Schwartz, 1992) includes short verbal portraits of 40 imaginary persons. Each portrait describes a person’s goals, aspira - tions, or wishes that point implicitly to the importance of a value. For each portrait, respondents are asked, “How much like you is this person?” Responses are given on a 5-point graded scale from very much like me (coded as 5) to not like me at all (coded as 1). The adapted value instrument covered 7 of Schwartz’s 10 motivational domains. Power, conformity, and tradition were omitted because neither previous research nor a prestudy based on means-end chain theory and laddering (Bredahl, Thøgersen, Dean, Pemartin, & Stiebel, 2004) indicated any significance for these three motivational domains. Furthermore, to keep the questionnaire as brief as possible, the 29 items in the 7 motivational domains included in this study were reduced to 17 items. The hypothesized clustering of value items into value types (or motivational domains) was tested on a country-by-country basis by means of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using AMOS 16 (Arbuckle & Wothke, 1999). Factor loadings ranged from .48 to .91, with an average of .71, and fit statistics were acceptable. In accor- dance with what can be expected from Schwartz’s value theory, some of the latent variables representing value types are strongly correlated (Table 4). In the values- behavior calculations, individual variation in scale use is controlled by using the resid- uals after regressing buying behavior on the mean importance rating for the 17 values as the behavior indicator (Schwartz, 1992).

Results

Assessing measurement invariance. Before conducting other analyses, the multi-item measurement instruments need to be checked for cross-cultural validity across the four countries. Cross-cultural validity refers to the extent to which data collected by the same multi-item measurement instrument are comparable across different cultural envi- ronments (Bredahl, 2001). Measurement invariance is investigated using a procedure proposed by Steenkamp and Baumgartner (1998). They suggest that measurement

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Table 4. Correlations Between Value Domains

Domains

Denmark

Germany

United Kingdom

Italy

Average

Uni-Hed

.30

.23

0.58

.11

.31

Ben-Uni

.49

.68

0.79

.73

.67

Ach-Ben

.19

.25

0.34

.27

.26

Sd-Ach

.38

.48

0.50

.49

.46

Sti-Sd

.51

.50

0.63

.54

.55

Sec-Sti

.05

.02

0.38

.26

.17

Ben-Hed

.41

.26

0.55

.18

.35

Ach-Uni

.06

.24

0.43

.13

.22

Sd-Ben

.36

.41

0.65

.42

.46

Sti-Ach

.71

.65

0.86

.77

.75

Sec-Sd

.41

.44

0.67

.41

.48

Ach-Hed

.52

.60

0.72

.68

.63

Sd-Uni

.40

.44

0.57

.39

.45

Sti-Ben

.19

.19

0.54

.35

.32

Sec-Ach

.14

.36

0.23

.44

.29

Sd-Hed

.62

.57

0.73

.44

.59

Sti-Uni

.18

.20

0.63

.27

.32

Sec-Ben

.63

.60

0.87

.53

.66

Sti-Hed

.67

.77

1.00

.84

.82

Sec-Uni

.74

.64

0.85

.57

.70

Sec-Hed

.49

.29

0.56

.34

.42

Note: Uni = universalism; Ben = benevolence; Hed = hedonism; Sec = security; Sti = stimulation; Sd = self- direction; Ach = achievement. χ 2 /df = 6.567, Tucker Lewis index = .866, comparative fit index = .910, root mean square error of approximation = .037. Correlations >|.06| are significant, p < .05.

invariance is a matter of degree and suggest a stepwise procedure for revealing the level of measurement invariance. In the present case, cross-cultural comparisons are limited to the strength of rela- tionships between different constructs. In such cases, it is necessary to assume config- ural and at least partial metric (or scale) invariance (Steenkamp & Baumgartner, 1998). Configural invariance exists when the patterns of significant and nonsignificant fac- tors are identical across countries. Configural invariance for multi-item constructs was tested, and confirmed, by the CFA reported in Table 4. Metric invariance exists when factor loadings are the same across countries. At least one item per latent construct, in addition to the one fixed at unity to define the scale of each latent construct, needs to be metrically invariant for cross-national comparisons of structural path coefficients (i.e., structural model regression weights) to be meaningful (Steenkamp & Baumgartner, 1998). Steenkamp and Baumgartner (1998) recommend that invariance constraints be relaxed only when it leads to highly significant improve- ments in model fit and that researchers evaluate not only chi-square differences but also

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changes in alternative indices of model fit, especially those that take model parsimony into account, such as the root mean square of approximation (RMSEA). Metric invariance was tested by means of nested CFA. The analysis shows that there is a significant difference in chi-square, χ 2 (30) = 168.614, p < .001, between the free and the restricted (i.e., factor loadings restricted to be equal across coun - tries) model with regard to the seven value domains. A partial metric invariance model where only two factor loadings per latent value construct are restricted to be equal still produces a significant change in chi-square, χ 2 (21) = 71.172, p < .001, compared to the model where only the factor loading fixed at unity to define the scale is set equal. However, with regard to universalism—the only value construct found to add significantly to the prediction of behavior in all four countries, accord - ing to the following analyses—it was possible to restrict the necessary factor load - ings to be equal across countries without significantly reducing the model fit, χ 2 (3) = 5.097, p = .165. Furthermore, a number of indices of model fit favor the partial metric invariance model, such as the Tucker Lewis index (partial metric invariance, .866; free, .862). Chi-square per degree of freedom is lower in the partial metric invariance (6.567) than in the free (6.783) model, and the RMSEA is identical across the two models (.037). The comparative fit index slightly favors the free model (partial metric invariance, .910; free, .912) but not when adjusted for parsimony (parsimony com- parative fix index; restricted, .614; free, .584). Hence, all in all, it seems justified to assume partial metric invariance in this case. Table 4 reports the correlations between the motivational value types, and Table 5 shows the correlations between values and the frequency of buying organic food for all four countries, given the assumption of partial metric invariance. 3 The values-behavior relationship. Because of multicollinearity, it is not possible to simultaneously include all value domains as predictors of behavior. Instead, a step - wise procedure was used to identify the values that seem to guide behavior in this particular case. First, the bivariate relationships between value types and behavior were inspected (Table 5). Between two and six of the seven included value types are significantly cor- related with buying organic food in the four countries. As in previous studies of environ- mentally responsible behavior, universalism is strongest and most consistently related to buying organic food, the bivariate correlation being significant in all four countries. Benevolence and achievement are significantly correlated with behavior in three coun- tries, security and hedonism in two countries, and stimulation in one country. A closer look at the correlations in Tables 4 and 5 reveals that a lack of a signifi- cant relationship between security and behavior in some cases may be attributable to suppression (Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003). According to Cohen et al. (2003), “suppression is present when either r Y1 or r Y2 is less than the product of the other with r 12 ” (p. 77). Security is strongly and positively correlated with universalism but weakly correlated with behavior (Y), whereas universalism is relatively strongly cor- related with behavior. Hence, because of the risk that the security-behavior correlation

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Table 5. Correlations Between Value Domains and Buying Organic Food

Domains

Denmark

Germany

United Kingdom

Italy

Average

Beh-Sec

.13

.07

.06

.03

.01

Beh-Sti

.02

.08

.06

.04

.05

Beh-Sd

.03

.06

.02

.01

.01

Beh-Ach

.04

.11

.07

.11

.08

Beh-Ben

.02

.12

.07

.08

.06

Beh-Uni

.19

.32

.11

.21

.21

Beh-Hed

.05

.14

.05

.07

.07

Note: Uni = universalism; Ben = benevolence; Hed = hedonism; Sec = security; Sti = stimulation; Sd = self- direction; Ach = achievement; Beh = behavior. χ 2 /df = 6.270; Tucker Lewis index = .860; comparative fit index = .907; root mean square error of approximation = .036. Correlations >|.06| are significant, p < .05.

is suppressed because of the stronger influence of universalism, the contribution of security was controlled in all cases in the following. In the next step, on a country-by-country basis, behavior was regressed on security and on all other value domains that were significantly correlated with buying organic food in that country, according to the analysis reported in Table 5. To conserve space, the main results of these analyses are just summarized in the text. In all four cases, universalism is still the strongest and most consistent predictor of buying organic food when other value types are included. However, also in all cases, an additional value type is significant when universalism is controlled, although it plays a secondary role. In three countries, security gives a significant contribution to explained variance, whereas achievement does the same in the United Kingdom. The following significant (standardized) regression coefficients were revealed by these SEM analyses:

Germany (universalism, .694; security, –.523), Denmark (universalism, .471; security, –.410), Italy (universalism, .377; security, –.155), United Kingdom (universalism, .239; achievement, –.168). The unstandardized regression coefficients for the path from uni- versalism to behavior could be fixed to be identical across the four countries without a significant loss of fit, χ 2 (3) = 1.336, p = .72.

Discussion

The signs of the regression coefficients reveal that a single value domain is actually sufficient to account for the positive motivation to purchase organic food in the four countries. Buying organic food is positively related to and, hence, seems to be basi- cally motivated by universalism values (which includes concern for the natural envi- ronment, among other things). The behavioral impact of universalism is of the same magnitude in the four countries. In none of the countries is any other value type both significantly and positively related to this behavior when the influence of universal- ism is controlled. This is consistent with Hypothesis 2 and with the key differentiating characteristic of organic food products: that they are produced with greater concern for the natural environment and for animal welfare.

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In all four countries, other value priorities seem to increase consumers’ propensity to reject organic food, however. Consumers in the United Kingdom for whom achievement is an important guiding principle in life are particularly unlikely to buy organic food. The basic goal expressed in achievement values is “personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards” (Schwartz et al., 2001, p. 521). Hence, this finding is the opposite of what one would expect if status seeking (“showing off”) were an important motive for buying organic food. Furthermore, in three of the four countries, organic food tends to be rejected by people who strongly value security as a guiding principle in their lives. In two of the three countries, the negative effect of security is revealed only when controlling for universalism, because it is suppressed at the bivariate level. Importantly, this finding is the opposite of what one would expect if the basic purchasing motive was (selfish) health concerns. The basic goal expressed in security values is “safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self” (Schwartz et al., 2001, p. 521). One would definitely expect people for whom security is an important guiding principle in life to be more sensitive than others to the healthiness of food. Hence, if the main rea- son for buying organic food is that it is believed to be healthy, such consumers should be expected to buy more organic food than others, but they do not. On the contrary, the security-behavior relationship is negative in all countries where it is significant. This apparent contradiction is solved by the proposition, put forward in this article, that a strong belief in the healthiness of organic food is a consequence rather than an ante- cedent of buying organic food. Still, consumer post-rationalization does not explain why the security-behavior relationship is negative rather than just nonsignificant. A possible explanation could be that because being organic is a credence characteristic (Bech-Larsen & Grunert, 2001), buying organic food products involves a risk of being cheated. It seems likely that people who strongly emphasize security as a guiding principle in their lives are more sensitive to such risks than other people.

General Discussion

This article challenges the tendency in empirical research to accept findings that are consistent with the neoclassical view of a selfish, rational decision maker at face value and, specifically, the frequent claim that consumers buy green products, such as organic food, mainly for selfish reasons (e.g., health, better taste). It is suggested that consumer self-reports of selfish reasons for this behavior are often inflated because of a desire to protect a self-image as a competent and rational person. This kind of moti- vated reasoning is predicted, for instance, by cognitive dissonance theory and in par- ticular by Aronson’s (1999) self-concept revision of the theory. Since it is especially the person’s self-concept as a competent and rational person that is threatened by the act of buying green products, consumers who do so are especially prone to bolster weakly founded beliefs about private benefits, such as that organic food is healthy and tasty. Hence, it is argued, most green consumers started to buy these products primarily because they were persuaded by their documented benefits for the environment, that

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is, for unselfish reasons, but subsequent concerns for protecting (and perhaps projecting) a smart and rational self-image made them inflate possible selfish reasons when asked to report why they buy green products, such as organic food. From a methodological point of view, the discussed bolstering processes lead people to report an idealized picture of themselves in interviews and surveys (e.g., Nancarrow & Brace, 2000). Biased self-reports have been attributed to two types of response bias:

impression management and self-deceptive enhancement (Lalwani, Shrum, & Chiu, 2009). Impression management is the tendency to present one’s actions in the most positive manner to control the social images that one projects, whereas self-deceptive enhancement is a tendency to provide inflated, yet honestly held, self-descriptions. Lalwani et al. (2009) argue that people in individualist cultures have a stronger ten- dency to self-deception, and people in collectivist cultures a stronger tendency to impression management, than the reverse. If this is true, self-deceptive enhancement should be a more serious threat to the validity of empirical research than impression management in a western European context, although both may contribute to the over- all amount of biased responding. What is discussed here may be viewed as a special case of self-deceptive enhancement. Notice that it is not claimed that health, taste, and other private consequences of buying organic food are without importance for consumers. Everybody wants food to be healthy and tasty, and not many will repeat buying organic food that tastes bad. Also, just as bad experiences threaten this behavior with extinction, experienced pri- vate benefits undoubtedly reinforce it. However, consumers are generally well aware that health and taste benefits are uncertain. Hence, for most consumers, such beliefs are too weak to make them start buying organic food at a premium price. Instead, what makes them decide to do so are the (documented) benefits to society and the environ- ment. However, when they have paid a premium for organic or other green products, consumers are motivated to interpret ambiguous information in a way that bolsters their decision to do so, which means that beliefs about private benefits are strength- ened. Since strong beliefs about private benefits are a consequence of behavior, they are also correlated with behavior. Survey data from four European countries corroborate the suggested interpretation of the evidence. Consumers who have bought organic food products generally hold more favorable beliefs about positive consequences of doing so but only if the reality check is difficult. Also, the pattern of the relationships between beliefs and length of buying experience is more consistent with belief strength following from rather than being an antecedent of behavior. Hence, there is evidence of motivated reasoning— justifying a previously performed green behavior by bolstering beliefs that are consis- tent with that behavior. Given the many and varied ways people defend their self-concept, only one of which has been elaborated here, unobtrusive and indirect methods may often be better than direct questioning at uncovering the true goals and motives guiding self-relevant behaviors. In this study, the applied method is to investigate how the purchase of organic food relates to the individual consumer’s stable value priorities as measured

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by a comprehensive instrument, such as the ones developed by Schwartz (1992, 1994, 2005; Schwartz et al., 2001). There is no indication in this large data set that the preference for organic food is linked to selfish values. On the contrary, buying organic food is consistently and positively related to how strongly the consumer prioritizes universalism values. The dominating, and positive, influence of universalism values on buying organic food products is consistent with the findings of previous research on proenvironmental behavior (e.g., Karp, 1996; Schwartz, 2005; Thøgersen & Ölander, 2002), and it strongly suggests that consumers derive the self-relevance of buying organic food pri- marily from its being considered a prosocial, proenvironmental behavior. By choosing organic food, consumers express their ethical values and their concern for the com- mon good. The findings of this study contradict the neoclassical model of the rational decision maker. However, the findings are good news for environmental policy makers as well as for businesses catering to green consumers. They strongly suggest that many con- sumers are not just driven by selfishness but are intrinsically motivated to contribute to solving environmental problems, such as those associated with modern, industrialized agriculture, and that they can be relied on to act on this motivation if they are offered the opportunity to do so. And they suggest that the organic products business needs not “cut corners” to promote products to consumers. In themselves, the documented envi- ronmental and ethical benefits of green products are strong selling points to large consumer segments. Furthermore, the findings suggest that producers and retailers should focus most of their marketing effort to persuade new customers to start buying the green products. When they have started, consumers seem to persuade themselves to continue buying by interpreting ambiguous reenforcers in the most positive way possible. In one of the four countries, the positive relationship between universalism and behavior is seconded by a negative relationship between achievement and behavior. Hence, in the United Kingdom, but not in the other countries, the more consumers strive for personal success through demonstrating competence, the less likely it is that they buy organic food. This may suggest that in the United Kingdom, more than in other countries, a conflict is perceived between following one’s own achievement goals and caring for the environment. It is left to future research to investigate whether this is true or not. A negative relationship between security and behavior was found in three of the four countries. Hence, this relationship seems to reflect a more general characteristic of the organic food market. It was proposed earlier that this finding reflects the fact that buying organic food products involves a risk of being cheated. If this interpretation is true, it emphasizes the importance of independent certification, labeling, and control systems for the marketing of green products. Extant research contains plenty of evi- dence supporting this proposition (e.g., Thøgersen, 2002). Despite the apparent value conflict in some countries, the pattern of correlations found between basic human values and the purchase of organic food is consistent with

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this behavior’s being fundamentally guided by unselfish motives. The findings regard- ing other values are only a corollary. Our ability to generalize the conclusions from this study is limited by the fact that all of the analyzed countries were from western Europe. That said, the analyzed group of countries is quite diverse with regard to national food cultures (Askegaard & Madsen, 1998) and, not least, organic food consumption (Table 2). Hence, although caution is warranted when generalizing results to non-Western cultures, the main findings cannot be reduced to a national idiosyncrasy: (a) Consumers change their beliefs about organic food products in a favorable direction after having bought them, and (b) the purchase of organic food is basically guided by unselfish and not by selfish values.

Acknowledgments

The empirical data reported in this article was collected in the CONDOR project, which was carried out with financial support of the European Communities under the 5th Framework Programme, project no. QLK1-2002-02446. For more information, visit http://www.condororganic.org/.

Notes

  • 1. For instance, the weekly consumer magazine inserted in Denmark’s largest broadsheet newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, usually publishes a (nonscientific) blind taste test of a food product. In 2005, 43 such tests were published, of which 19 included at least one organic variant of the tested product. In 8 (i.e., fewer than half) of these tests was an organic vari- ant selected as the best tasting or at least as a tied first. (The organic variant was the most expensive in 14 of the tests.)

  • 2. Because the countries differ quite a lot in size and in the availability of appropriate national registers that can be used for sampling, there is no universal best procedure for drawing a national representative sample. Hence, we judged that a national professional market research company possessed the best expertise for deciding the optimal sampling procedure for each country.

  • 3. To conserve space, the tables report only correlations between latent factors and the most important fit indices. The rest of the AMOS output can be acquired from the author.

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Bio

John Thøgersen is Professor of Economic Psychology at Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences. His current research includes projects on social norms in the environmental field, promoting energy conservation in households, consumer acceptance of organic food products in China, Brazil and Europe, and intergenerational transfer of environmental concern. He has published extensively on consumption issues in journals such as Journal of Economic Psychology, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Psychology & Marketing, European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Environmental Psychology, and Basic and Applied Social Psychology. John Thøgersen is editor of Journal of Consumer Policy, published by Springer. He is program director at Aarhus University for EURECA, a European Master of Consumer Affairs.

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