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A Little Piece of Me: When Mortality Reminders Lead to Giving to Others

Lea Dunn, Katherine White and Darren W Dahl

Journal of Consumer Research, 2020, vol. 47, issue 3, 431-453

Abstract: Past research demonstrates that reminders of one’s own mortality can lead to materialistic and self-serving consumer behaviors. In contrast, across five studies, we explore a condition under which mortality salience (MS) leads to increased tendency to give away one’s possessions—when the donation act is high in transcendence potential. We propose and find that consumers are more likely to donate their possessions to charity under MS (vs. comparison conditions) when the product is considered highly (vs. not highly) connected to the self. Moreover, we demonstrate that this tendency manifests only when transcendence is attainable through donation. In support of the proposition of transcendence as the underlying mechanism, the observed effects are attenuated under conditions where: (1) transcendence has already been satiated via alternative means or (2) the donated possession will not transcend the self (i.e., its physical integrity is lost by being broken down and recycled). The theoretical and practical implications of the work are discussed.

Keywords: mortality salience; self-connected products; charitable giving; product disposition; transcendence (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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