Tainted by Stigma: The Interplay of Stigma and Moral Identity in Health Persuasion

Chethana Achar*, Lea H. Dunn, Nidhi Agrawal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The current research examines the interactive effect of consumers’ moral identity and risk factor stigma on health message effectiveness. The authors theorize that engaging in advocated health behaviors has moral associations; however, a stigmatized risk factor in a message “taints” the morality of the advocated health behavior. Thus, consumers with high (vs. low) moral identity are more likely to comply with health messages when risk factor stigma is low, and this positive moral identity effect is undermined when risk factor stigma is high. The authors test stigma's threat to moral identity by measuring defensive processing (Studies 1 and 2) and the attenuating effect of self-affirmation on the negative effect of stigma (Studies 3 and 4). They apply the stigma-by-association principle to develop and test a messaging intervention (Study 5). The studies suggest that, depending on whether a health message contains stigmatized risk factors, marketers could employ a combination of tactics such as activating moral identity, offering self-affirming message frames, and/or highlighting low-stigma risk factors to bolster message effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-410
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • defensive processing
  • health messaging
  • moral identity
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


Dive into the research topics of 'Tainted by Stigma: The Interplay of Stigma and Moral Identity in Health Persuasion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this