Time for Money: A Social Impact Perspective on Moral Licensing
42 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2020
Date Written: November 11, 2020
Moral self-regulation is essential in daily work decisions. Past research has demonstrated that sometimes a moral decision is followed by another good deed (moral consistency) while other times it leads to a bad deed (moral licensing). Drawing on social meaningfulness and social impact theory, we focus on the domain of pro-social moral decision-making to disentangle moral consistency from moral licensing. In field and online contexts, we find that volunteering for a charity, followed by a donation decision, leads to moral licensing of donations (Studies 1 and 2). We then test a predicted moderator of social meaningfulness (Study 3): when a moral decision has a socially meaningful impact, we find that it leads to moral licensing. Conversely, volunteering for a non-socially meaningful cause, such as a for-profit organization, did not cause donations to be licensed, even when the organization donated money to a socially meaningful cause. We discuss the ethical and managerial implications of moral consistency and moral licensing in socially meaningful activities in and outside the workplace.
Keywords: Moral licensing, charitable giving, behavioural economics, experimental economics
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