The purpose of the study is to outline the unique role of compassion in reactions to cases of irresponsible corporate behavior that present information about victims of these events. In this study, four antecedents of compassion for the victims of irresponsibility are presented, and a model that explains the consequences of this emotion is tested empirically.
Two studies test the research hypotheses using a mix of experimental and survey research. The effects are tested both in laboratory conditions, where consumers assess a fictitious case of corporate irresponsibility, and through a test of reactions to real online campaigns.
Compassion is one of the drivers of consumers’ anger at the culprit, playing an indirect role in decisions to retaliate against perpetrators. Four key drivers of compassion are identified in the research: the perceived suffering of the victims, the perceived similarity of the victims to the observer, victims’ derogation and the vividness of the description of the victims.
The study offers insights both for campaigners wishing to instigate boycotts and organizations managing complex stakeholder relationships following a crisis. Insights on the role of compassion and its antecedents lead to more effective communications able to heighten or dampen this emotion.
Existing research offers contrasting views on the potential role of compassion in reactions to injustices. This study presents a novel account that clarifies previous findings and extends our knowledge of causes and consequences of compassion.
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