Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Why What You Buy May Not Reflect Your Moral Values

Looking at the world, it’s easy to see that people — in general — are ethical. They give to charity, help their neighbors, love their children. And if you ask them if they’re comfortable with sweatshops, child labor, or animal testing, it’s no surprise most will say they’re not. But our desire to be ethical and to “do good” is very often at odds with our desire to get exactly what we want, cheaply and quickly. 

Behavioral economist and researcher Julie Irwin, a professor at the McCombs School of Business, will explore consumer behavioral patterns to help expose some of the reasons why people’s buying habits often don’t align with their values.


I’m both a consumer and a researcher, and I’m fascinated by the fact that what I actually care about isn’t always reflected in my purchasing behavior. From a rational economics perspective, the fact that people don’t pay close attention to moral issues when they shop might suggest that people are actually terrible, immoral creatures — but I disagree.  

I will show that there are many reasons for this lack of consistency. I will draw from my field of behavioral economics as well as my own research to discuss larger themes around ethical consumerism. I hope I can help attendees make decisions that better align with what they care about.


• Why people’s economic behavior can be different from what they actually care about
• Specific aspects of consumer situations that can lead consumers to be “bad”
• How to better align purchasing with values, as a consumer 
• How corporate marketers, non-profits, and political organizations can help guide people toward      expressing their ethical values



Julie Irwin is the Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Professor of Business in the Business, Government and Society Department. Prior to joining McCombs, Dr. Irwin has taught at Wharton and the Stern School of Business at NYU. She received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Colorado and completed post-doctoral training in quantitative psychology at the University of Illinois. She has published more than 40 refereed journal articles and book chapters as well as articles in outlets such as the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, The Conversation (reprinted by CNN), and Huffington Post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 11:30am to 1:00pm

AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center (ATT), 202
1900 UNIVERSITY AVE , Austin, Texas 78705

Event Type

Business & Economy, Diversity & Social Justice


McCombs School of Business

Target Audience

Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, General Public




$25, includes lunch. Vegan and gluten-free options.

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