Over five experiments, we demonstrate that physical cleansing (e.g., handwashing) can reduce consumers’ unhealthy eating in subsequent unrelated contexts, by decreasing their choice of vice food (e.g., chocolate cake) versus virtue food (e.g., fruit salad) and their preferred amount vice food for consumption. This effect generalizes over different food stimuli and different operationalizations of physical cleansing (i.e., actual cleansing, visualized cleansing, and vicarious cleansing). Further, an analogous effect occurs for consumers’ unethical choice in a non-food domain, thus increasing the generalizability of the cleansing effect. Finally, one potential mechanism of the effect based on the metaphorical associations between physical cleanliness and moral purity and between vice food and immoral consumption is suggested.
Marketing Letters – Springer Journals
Published: May 9, 2018
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