Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 235–248 | Cite as

Anger Strays, Fear Refrains: The Differential Effect of Negative Emotions on Consumers’ Ethical Judgments

  • Jatinder J. Singh
  • Nitika Garg
  • Rahul Govind
  • Scott J. Vitell


Although various factors have been studied for their influence on consumers’ ethical judgments, the role of incidental emotions has received relatively less attention. Recent research in consumer behavior has focused on studying the effect of specific incidental emotions on various aspects of consumer decision making. This paper investigates the effect of two negative, incidental emotional states of anger and fear on ethical judgment in a consumer context using a passive unethical behavior scenario (i.e., too much change received). The paper presents two experimental studies. Study 1 focuses on the interaction of moral intensity (amount of change) and incidental emotion state in predicting the ethical judgment while study 2 investigates the underlying causal mechanism behind the process, using a mediation analysis. The results reveal a significant interaction between moral intensity and incidental emotion. Specifically, individuals in the state of incidental fear exhibit higher levels of ethical judgment as the moral intensity increases as compared to individuals in the state of incidental anger. Further, perceived control is found to mediate the relationship between emotional state and ethical judgment under higher moral intensity condition.


Ethical judgment Incidental emotion Anger Fear Mediation analysis 



Consumer ethics scale


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jatinder J. Singh
    • 1
  • Nitika Garg
    • 2
  • Rahul Govind
    • 2
  • Scott J. Vitell
    • 3
  1. 1.EADA Business SchoolBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.UNSW Australia Business SchoolUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of BusinessUniversity of MississippiOxfordUSA

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