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Even things which seem self-evident need to be verified. In a study called “Marketplace Sentiments,” forthcoming in the December 2014 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research, Ahir Gopaldas of Fordham University's business school wondered why certain consumers are willing to spend more money on what they deem “ethical products” (such as fair-trade coffee, or non-sweatshop clothing), and reached an unsurprising conclusion: consumers who make such purchases do so because they want to turn their “emotions” into “actions.”

The study's abstract explains:

“From outrage at corporations to excitement about innovations, marketplace sentiments are powerful forces in consumer culture that transform markets. This article develops a preliminary theory of marketplace sentiments. Defined as collectively shared emotional dispositions, sentiments can be grouped into three function-based categories: contempt for villains, concern for victims, and celebration of heroes.”

Godalpas conducted his study by analyzing the websites of dozens of different advocacy groups, and companies run according to “ethical” mission statements, and also interviewed ordinary individuals who self-identified as ethical consumers.

So how do those these function-based categories of sentiment play out?

Contempt happens when ethical consumers feel anger and disgust toward the corporations and governments they consider responsible for environmental pollution and labor exploitation. Concern stems from a concern for the victims of rampant consumerism, including workers, animals, ecosystems, and future generations. Celebration occurs when ethical consumers experience joy from making responsible choices and hope from thinking about the collective impact of their individual choices.

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