The Role of Moral Reasoning and Gender on Digital Piracy Intervention Efficacy

  • Kate Megan Whitman

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the interplay of moral reasoning, gender and intervention strategies in the realm of digital piracy. Through survey experiments, the research offers theoretical contributions and practical insights for policymakers. Across four papers, psychological effects like cognitive dissonance, moral licensing, psychological reactance, false consensus and ingroup bias, are examined in the context of digital piracy interventions. In two experiments designed to reduce social desirability bias in sensitive survey items, Paper 1 identifies that men tend to suppress piracy reporting in response to negative primes compared to women, while a positive behaviour prime increases honest reporting, especially among men and individuals with high social desirability bias. In the persuasive message interventions (Papers 2-4), Paper 2 indicates that threatening anti-piracy messages exhibit polarising effects—escalating intentions for men and diminishing them for women. Paper 3 examines gender differences in false consensus, with the findings indicating that a normative message increases piracy intentions in men. In an exploration of group identification and ingroup bias, Paper 4 focuses on a predominantly male sample interested in live football consumption. A corporate social responsibility message that primes ingroup benefits effectively deters consumption of counterfeit merchandise intentions but does not affect digital piracy intentions. This underscores the challenge of altering digital illegal (piracy) consumption compared to its physical counterpart (counterfeiting). The gender comparison studies imply that gender-specific disparities in moral reasoning for illegal online activities are significant, emphasising the need for tailored interventions and survey designs. The evidence concerning persuasive messages signals their ineffectiveness or adverse effects in the case of digital piracy, particularly among primary consumers of illegal content—men. Policymakers are advised to reconsider intellectual property crime communications, for example targeting them solely at women or designing them as a deterrence against counterfeiting rather than piracy.
Date of Award10 May 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorZahra Murad (Supervisor), Joe Cox (Supervisor) & Wolfgang Luhan (Supervisor)

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