Journal of Consumer Behaviour

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Sadly, you made me earn it: The effect of responsibility attributions for sadness on food indulgence

Abstract This article addresses the mixed findings of prior studies regarding hedonic food indulgence in sadness. Building upon the idea that self‐licensing may underlie the effect of sadness on food indulgence, the current research identifies responsibility attributions, namely, whether consumers attribute the cause of their sadness to themselves or to others, as an important factor that may affect sense of deservingness, and consequently affect hedonic food consumption in sadness. Four experiments show that sadness enhances food indulgence more when consumers attribute the responsibility for their sadness to others rather than to themselves. Specifically, findings show that (a) when self‐responsibility attributions are unlikely, sadness increases chocolate consumption; (b) sadness leads to a greater sense of deservingness and enhanced food indulgence when people hold others rather than themselves responsible for their sadness; and (c) the responsibility attribution effect on food indulgence in sadness is more pronounced at high levels of sadness and when the event that triggered one's sadness is significant. These findings contribute to our understanding of the factors that influence food indulgence in sadness.

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