A Little Good is Good Enough: Ethical Consumption, Cheap Excuses, and Moral Self-Licensing (joint with Nora Szech)
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 self-
licensing, both, static and over time.