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

See all articles by Eberhard Feess

Eberhard Feess

Frankfurt School of Finance & Management gemeinn├╝tzige GmbH

Roee Sarel

Institute of Law and Economics, University of Hamburg

Date Written: January 3, 2020

Abstract

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

Feess, Eberhard and Sarel, Roee, Do Moral Transgressions Lead to Pro-Social Effort? Evidence From a Real-Effort Experiment (January 3, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3227908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3227908

Eberhard Feess

Frankfurt School of Finance & Management gemeinn├╝tzige GmbH ( email )

Adickesallee 32-34
Frankfurt am Main, 60322
Germany

Roee Sarel (Contact Author)

Institute of Law and Economics, University of Hamburg ( email )

Johnsallee 35
Hamburg, 20148
Germany

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