Do Moral Transgressions Lead to Pro-Social Effort? Evidence From a Real-Effort Experiment
30 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2018 Last revised: 3 Jan 2020
Date Written: January 3, 2020
The literature on moral licensing usually considers two sequential moral decisions such as lying and donating which involve no real effort. We complement this literature by substituting the second stage with a real-effort task. Subjects first decide whether to take money designated for charity and then proceed to two real-effort tasks, where payoffs are either donated or given to the subjects. Subjects taking the money perform relatively worse in the pro-social task, suggesting that stable preferences dominate moral licensing. We highlight the importance of controlling for ability and effort costs. Results prevail when taking the money is potentially punishable.
Keywords: Moral licensing, conscience accounting, licensing effect, stable preferences, real effort
JEL Classification: C91, D91, K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation