Staying on the Virtuous Path: Helping Consumers Do What They Should

Problem Statement

Across many areas of repetitive consumption, seemingly sincere consumers articulate intentions and make commitments to consume in ways that are responsible and beneficial to themselves and others, only to lose momentum, falter, and sometimes abandon the virtuous path. “Why can’t I do this?” is a question they often ask, at least initially. In many cases they later spend time and effort justifying or rationalizing abandoning the virtuous path.

Track Goals

This track’s members seek to 1) better understand what causes consumers to abandon virtuous paths, and 2) to identify simple, actionable, and teachable interventions that strengthen consumer resolve or disrupt their ability to rationalize abandonment. We focus on healthcare and sustainable consumption as two areas in which straying from virtuous paths can have serious consequences. For example, a diabetic mother who commits to healthy eating and regular blood sugar monitoring but later binges on cookies is someone for whom digression can be costly, even deadly. Likewise, substance abusers who commit to being in low-temptation social environments and later go out with fellow abusers are exchanging noble goals for potentially irreparable damage. Similarly, an urban slum father who pledges part of daily earnings to building a latrine, and later drinks and gambles those earnings away, dooms his family to continuing open defecation and life in unspeakable squalor.

Pre-Conference, Conference, and Post-Conference Activities

Our approach is theoretically ecumenical in that we study dispositions, context factors, and an array of cognitive/emotional processes that affect consumer persistence when virtuous consumption must be on-going to be beneficial. In addition, it is multi-method (surveys, experiments, ethnography, participatory action) and adventurous in scope. Data come from the U.S. and Colombia, and cross social strata (subsistence to affluence). In pre-conference activities, we are assembling a body of theoretically-grounded knowledge that casts light on why consumers abandon beneficial consumption practices. Concurrently, we are identifying and testing personally and societally administered interventions that curtail abandonment. During the conference, the team will catalog findings and prioritize publication priorities, leaving with outlines for multiple publications. Post conference activities will involve manuscript development and submissions.



September 15 2016 TCR notice of acceptance or rejection
September 23 2016 Kick off Skype call
September/October 2016 Literature review and research designs
November 2016 – March 2017 Research designs and data collections across contexts
January/March 2017 Data analyses
April 2017 Improvements in research designs (for some studies)
May/June 2017 Data collections as needed
June 18-20 2017 TCR Conference to layout manuscript outlines and responsibilities
July 2017 – June 2018 Preparation of manuscripts


Catalina Estrada-Mejia

Universidad de los Andes

Beatriz Pereira

Iowa State University

Richard Vann

Penn State – Bernard