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Study: Lonely customers who lack empathy more likely to shop unethically

(Image: ostaplus / Depositphotos.com)

(Image: Ostaplus / Depositphotos.com)

Consumers’ loneliness may be a factor when they engage in unethical shopping behaviors, such as returning used items, according to new research form Binghamton University.

“Someone may buy a big-screen TV for Super Bowl Sunday, only to return it on Monday,” said Jenny Jiao, assistant professor of management at Binghamton. “Or they may buy a nice outfit for a night out, only to return it the next day.”

Jiao and fellow researcher Jing Wang of the University of Iowa wanted to find out if loneliness might be a factor in such behavior. The researchers looked at the effect that empathy and loneliness combined had on subject’s importance of identifying as a moral person in four studies.

Jiao and Wang found that lonely people are less likely to behave immorally when they feel empathy.

Jiao said she hopes to look into how to induce empathy in consumers in future research.

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