Moral licensing, moral cleansing and pro-environmental behaviour: the moderating role of pro-environmental attitudes

Gholamzadehmir, Maedeh, Sparks, Paul and Farsides, Tom (2019) Moral licensing, moral cleansing and pro-environmental behaviour: the moderating role of pro-environmental attitudes. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 65. a101334 1-9. ISSN 0272-4944

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The present study examined the conditions under which highlighting past pro-environmental behaviour produces a “license” to engage in less pro-environmental behaviour: a phenomenon known as moral licensing. It also examined whether highlighting a lack of past pro-environmental action would lead to moral cleansing, where people engage in moral behaviour to maintain a positive moral self-image. It extends the existing literature on moral licensing and moral cleansing by exploring environmental attitudes as a moderator of the effect of people's past pro-environmental behaviour on their subsequent actions. Participants (N = 213) completed the Environmental Attitude Scale and were then exposed to either a stronger green credentials manipulation, or a weaker green credentials manipulation, or they took part in a control group. As a key dependent variable, they were then provided with an opportunity to find out about their personal carbon footprint, with their responses being interpreted as possible evidence of moral licensing/cleansing. There was evidence that participants with more pro-environmental attitudes who were reminded of frequent previous pro-environmental behaviour were less likely to seek information about their carbon footprint (consistent with a moral licensing effect) and that participants with less positive environmental attitudes who were reminded of infrequent previous pro-environmental behaviour were more likely to seek such information (consistent with to moral cleansing). The findings are discussed in relation to spillover effects.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Research Centres and Groups: Social and Applied Psychology Research Group
Depositing User: Paul Sparks
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2019 08:37
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2021 01:00

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