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A little good is good enough: Ethical consumption, cheap excuses, and moral self-licensing

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  • Engel, Jannis
  • Szech, Nora

Abstract

This paper explores the role of cheap excuses in product choice. If a product improves upon one ethically relevant dimension, agents may care less about other independent ethical facets of the product. Opting for a product that fulfills one ethical aspect may thus suffice for keeping a high moral self-image in agents, and render it easier to ignore other ethically relevant aspects they would otherwise care about. The use of such cheap excuses could thus lead to a 'static moral self-licensing' effect. This would extend the logic of the well-known moral self-licensing over time. Our experimental study provides empirical evidence that the static counterpart of moral self-licensing exists. Furthermore, effects spill over to unrelated, ethically relevant contexts later in time. Thus, static moral self-licensing and moral self-licensing over time can amplify each other. Outsiders, though monetarily incentivized for correct estimates, are completely oblivious to the effects of moral selflicensing, both, static and over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Engel, Jannis & Szech, Nora, 2017. "A little good is good enough: Ethical consumption, cheap excuses, and moral self-licensing," Working Paper Series in Economics 102, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Department of Economics and Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:kitwps:102
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Geraldes, Diogo & Heinicke, Franziska & Rosenkranz, Stephanie, 2019. "Lying in Two Dimensions and Moral Spillovers," MPRA Paper 96640, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. D.J. da Cunha Batista Geraldes & Franziska Heinicke & S. Rosenkranz, 2021. "Lying in Two Dimensions," Working Papers 2101, Utrecht School of Economics.
    3. Barron, Kai, 2019. "Lying to appear honest," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2019-307, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    moral self-licensing; moral spillovers; cheap excuses; outsider beliefs; moral personality;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations

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