How prior Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) record influence the effectiveness of one single CSR initiative: Mediating role of motive attribution

Joanne Chen Lyu


The public does not take every corporate social responsibility (CSR) behavior as good, and reward the corporation. Instead, people make attribution of motive for the seemingly social responsible action and respond accordingly. Based on attribution theory and using experimental research method, this study tested how prior CSR record influenced the public’s attribution of altruistic motive for a corporation’s single CSR initiative, which further influenced the effectiveness of the CSR initiative in terms of attitude toward the corporation, reputation evaluation, word of mouth (WOM) communication, and purchase intention. Results showed that the public in general had a high level of suspicion about the corporate motive for launching a CSR initiative. However, in comparison to the corporations with negative prior CSR record, corporations with positive record were more likely to be attributed of altruistic motive, which tends to generate positive reaction from the public. Motive attribution was demonstrated as a robust mediator in the relationship between prior CSR record and the public’s reaction. Interestingly, it was found that the public’s reaction can be significantly improved by one single CSR initiative for corporations with negative prior CSR record, but not for those with positive record. More discussion on the implications of the findings was conducted.


prior CSR record; attribution of motive; attitude toward the corporation; reputation; WOM communication; purchase intention

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