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Double Standards in the Use of Enhancing Products by Self and Others

Elanor F. Williams and Mary Steffel

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 2, 506 - 525

Abstract: Despite the growing prevalence of products that allow people to improve themselves, there is limited research to date on how consumers perceive the use of these products. We introduce a theoretical framework that explains how consumers interpret the effects of such products and how they judge the fairness of their use. Five experiments show that consumers perceive the same enhancing products as embellishing users' abilities to a greater extent when other people use them than when they themselves use them. This leads to an ethical double standard: consumers believe that it is less fair for others to use ability-boosting products than it is for themselves to do so. Consequently, encouraging consumers to consider who the ultimate users of such products will be can influence how they believe such products ought to be used and regulated.

Date: 2014
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