Moral Cleansing and Moral Licenses: experimental evidence
AbstractResearch on moral cleansing and moral self-licensing has introduced dynamic considerations in the theory of moral behavior. Past bad actions trigger negative feelings that make people more likely to engage in future moral behavior to offset them. Symmetrically, past good deeds favor a positive self-perception that creates licensing effects, leading people to engage in behavior that is less likely to be moral. In short, a deviation from a “normal state of being” is balanced with a subsequent action that compensates the prior behavior. We model the decision of an individual trying to reach the optimal level of moral self-worth over time and show that under certain conditions the optimal sequence of actions follows a regular pattern which combines good and bad actions. We conduct an economic experiment where subjects play a sequence of giving decisions (dictator games) to explore this phenomenon. We find that donation in the previous period affects present decisions and the sign is negative: participants’ behavior in every round is negatively correlated to what they did in the past. Hence donations over time seem to be the result of a regular pattern of self-regulation: moral licensing (being selfish after altruist) and cleansing (altruistic after selfish).
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Chapman University, Economic Science Institute in its series Working Papers with number 11-16.
Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Other versions of this item:
- Brañas-Garza, Pablo & Bucheli, Marisa & Paz Espinosa, María & García-Muñoz, Teresa, 2013. "Moral Cleansing And Moral Licenses: Experimental Evidence," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(02), pages 199-212, July.
- Brañas-Garza, Pablo & Bucheli, Marisa & García-Muñoz, Teresa & Espinosa Alejos, María Paz, 2012. "Moral cleansing and moral licenses: experimental evidence," DFAEII Working Papers 2012-09, University of the Basque Country - Department of Foundations of Economic Analysis II.
- NEP-ALL-2012-01-18 (All new papers)
- NEP-EVO-2012-01-18 (Evolutionary Economics)
- NEP-EXP-2012-01-18 (Experimental Economics)
- NEP-SOC-2012-01-18 (Social Norms & Social Capital)
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Blog mentionsAs found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
- What's Right?
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Mungowitz) in Kids Prefer Cheese on 2013-08-18 08:00:00
- Moral licensing & cherry-picking
by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2012-10-26 13:32:44
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"Confucianism and Preferences: Evidence from Lab Experiments in Taiwan and China,"
2013-199-49, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
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