Moral licensing and rebound effects in the residential lighting area - an experimental study
Rebound effects reduce the energy demand reduction from energy efficiency in-creases. Understanding the underlying mechanisms is therefore crucial. A potential driver is moral licensing, a cognitive process by which individuals justify immoral behaviour (e.g., using more and brighter lights) by having previously engaged in moral behaviour (e.g., switching to a more efficient lighting). Since empirical research on this topic is rare, we conducted an experimental study: Participants (n=491) chose between three LEDs, which were all more energy-efficient than their current one. For investigating moral licensing, the perceived environmental behaviour of the participants was manipulated by a previous assessment of their own past environmental behaviour: Treatment easy (1) provided the impression of highly environmental behaviours, treatment difficult (2) the impression of a less environmentally friendly behaviour. A control group (3) focused on leisure time behaviours. Overall, we are able to demonstrate rebound effects in LED choice and find effects of the manipulation on the moral self-perception. However, we do not find significant patterns regarding treatment condition and LED choice. On the contrary, in both treatments, easy (1) and difficult (2), individuals tended to show more environmental friendly choices. These results suggest that bringing environmental behaviours to people's mind could contribute to weakening re-bound effects in general.