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John Jutila

DBA Graduate - 2017

Thesis title

Addicted to Our Cars: The Influence of Symbolic and Affective Addiction on Environmental Vehicle Choice using the Theory of Planned Behavior


Jean-Jacques Chanaron-Externe
Purpose – Prior research has identified an intention-behavior gap in which intentions to pursue “good” behaviors are often not followed through, especially for choices related to environmental sustainability which require lifestyle changes. This research explores the role of compulsive or addictive consumer behaviors which counteract good intentions resulting in the intention-behavior gap using the Theory of Planned Behavior.Design/Methodology – A survey of 407 North American consumers was conducted measuring Attitudes, Norms, Perceived Behavioral Control and Intentions to construct a baseline model of vehicle purchase decisions using the Theory of Planned Behavior. A diagnostic measurement tool (Compulsive Automotive Rating Scale or ‘CARS’) was developed to measure potential addiction to symbolic and affective desires related to automobile use and ownership patterned after clinical surveys used in addiction research. The effect of the CARS variable was tested for direct and mediating effect on choosing environmentally friendly vehicles. Additional hypotheses were tested to evaluate the roles of guilt-neutralization, ego depletion, behavior willingness and self-esteem seeking which are all relevant to addictive behaviors.Findings – The addiction scale was found to counteract good intentions for choosing environmentally friendly vehicles and to promote bad behaviors supported by status or affective product desires. The influence of consumer addiction was found to have a negative effect on environmentally friendly behavior as well as mediate the translation of intentions into behaviors. Support was also found for influence of ego depletion (loss of willpower), efforts to neutralize guilt, increased behavior willingness to engage in poor behaviors and symbolic and affective self-esteem seeking in relation to measured addiction as well as final behaviors.Practical Implications – This research proposes a new variable for inclusion into the Theory of Planned Behavior in domains where willpower is required to pursue rational choices. Originality/Value – The research suggests that addictive behaviors are more common than previously assumed and that scalar measures of addiction may be effective in behavior models to explain irrational choices in which willpower is involved.Keywords - Theory of Planned Behavior, Compulsive Buying, Intention-Behavior Gap, Mortality Salience, Environmental Behavior