Exploring Psychological Boundary Conditions of Priming in Promoting Sustainable Consumption

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Sustainable products and services are becoming popular in the market, but in some areas, sustainable projects are not as effective as governments and companies had hoped they would be (e.g., aviation voluntary carbon offsets). To promote sustainable consumption, many marketing interventions attempt to encourage sustainable consumption by altering attitudes, nevertheless, these are not always successful because consumers may not follow through on attitudes due to a variety of factors. Thus, many researchers in marketing and consumer research have explored using alternative strategies, such as priming, to aid consumers to achieve their attitudes. As a behavioural change technique that triggers non- conscious processing, priming is economical to conduct and could be effective in many situations. However, different types of priming (e.g., health priming, construal priming) have different levels of effectiveness in various purchase contexts, which has been subject to limited integral scrutiny. Through three essays, this thesis maps the conceptual framework that summarises different approaches to priming sustainable purchases from theoretical and methodological perspectives in various contexts (Essay One), explores the conditions in which priming thwarts consumers executing sustainable purchases (Essay Two), and delineates the conditions in which priming empowers consumers to take responsibility of protecting the environment when making purchase decisions (Essay Three). This thesis offers several contributions. By integrating general, theoretical, and methodological characteristics of past research on priming sustainable consumption, it provides an overview of research foci and gaps in the area, outlines consumption topics studied, and taxonomises different variables. Moreover, the thesis identifies a mechanism where priming could lead consumers to unload their responsibility of protecting the environment, thus elucidating why many consumers do not follow their environmental-friendly values and attitudes. Finally, the thesis delineates a decision process in which priming could empower consumers to be environmentally responsible and identifies several boundary conditions of a such process.

Keywords: Sustainable consumption, priming, motivated reasoning, self-accountability, environmental responsibilisation
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorKirk Plangger (Supervisor) & Matteo Montecchi (Supervisor)

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