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Guilty pleasures: Moral licensing in climate-related behavior

: Burger, Axel; Schuler, Johannes; Eberling, Elisabeth


Global environmental change 72 (2022), Art. 102415, 11 S.
ISSN: 1872-9495
ISSN: 0959-3780
Fraunhofer ISI ()
moral licensing; spillover effects; climate; environment; motivated reasoning

This research provides evidence for moral-licensing effects in climate-related behavior. We recruited individuals who had not travelled by airplane for private reasons during the past two years (Study 1, n = 854) or had invested in an energetic refurbishment of their homes (Study 2, n = 596) and investigated feelings and intentions toward two different problematic behaviors, namely meat consumption (Study 1) and air travel (Study 2). In a paradigm where the order of topics in the survey was varied systematically, being reminded of past climate-friendly behavior decreased the discomfort about ongoing problematic climate-related behavior in another domain (Study 1) and reduced the motivation to change the latter behavior or to mitigate its consequences (Study 2). Strength and direction of the effect were moderated by factors such as concern about climate protection, personal relevance of the problematic behavior, as well as time since and pride about the climate- friendly behavior.