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Consumers’ CSR boycott: the mediating role of psychological contract violation

Xinming Deng (Wuhan University, Wuhan, China)
Xianyi Long (Wuhan University, Wuhan, China)

Nankai Business Review International

ISSN: 2040-8749

Article publication date: 11 July 2019

Issue publication date: 20 February 2020



Consumers may boycott firms’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, but little is known about when, why and how they would respond in this way. Based on psychological contract violation and discount principles, the purpose of this paper is to argue that timing and fit of CSR activities are the main dimensions of consumers’ psychological contract. It is posited that CSR activities would be boycotted if consumers perceived violation of their psychological contract, and their altruistic tendency would have a moderating effect on this mechanism.


This paper takes the form of an empirical study using a sample of 434 respondents through scene-questionnaire survey in central China.


It is found that (1) low fit or reactive CSR activities would induce consumers’ psychological contract violation, and the latter has a more significant influence; (2) perceived CSR is negatively related with consumers’ boycott behaviors, but CSR activities would be boycotted if consumers’ psychological contracts are violated; (3) the negative relationship between perceived CSR and consumers’ boycott behaviors would be strengthened by consumers’ altruistic tendency, and the positive relationship between consumers’ psychological contract violation and their boycott behaviors would also be strengthened by their altruistic tendency.

Research limitations/implications

This paper has significant theoretical implications, as it answers the question that when, why and how CSR activities would be boycotted. Besides, it contributes to literature on psychological contract for applying it to CSR research field. Furthermore, the double-edged effect of consumers’ altruistic tendency extends literature on pro-social behaviors.

Social implications

This paper is of interests to corporate management and academics who wish to understand when and why consumers would boycott CSR activities and the factors that would relax consumers’ negative responses.


This is the first paper that investigates when, why and how CSR activities would be boycotted from the perspective of consumers’ psychological contract violation.



This study was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (Project Number: 71872132 and 71572132) and The Young Scholars’ Academic Development Program of Wuhan University’s Humanities and Social Sciences (Whu 2016011).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval: All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent: Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


Deng, X. and Long, X. (2020), "Consumers’ CSR boycott: the mediating role of psychological contract violation", Nankai Business Review International, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 23-43.



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