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A Little Good is Good Enough: Ethical Consumption, Cheap Excuses, and Moral Self-Licensing

We explore the role of cheap excuses in product choice. If a product improves upon one ethically relevant dimension, agents may care less about other, completely independent ethical facets of the product. This ‘static moral self-licensing’ would extend the logic of the well studied moral self-licensing over time. Our data document that static moral self-licensing exists. Furthermore, effects spill over to later, unrelated but ethically relevant contexts. Thus, static moral self-licensing and moral self-licensing over time amplify each other. Outsiders, though incentivized for correct estimates, are completely oblivious to effects of moral self-licensing, both, static and over time.

Jannis Engel, Karlsruhe Institution of Technology
Nora Szech, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
Publication Date: 
April, 2017
Publication Status: 
Document Number: 
File Description: 
First version, March 31, 2017