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  • How do we use good behaviour to account for our indulgences?
  • How do we use good behaviour to account for our indulgences?
    Tim Lucas, Creative Commons (2014) ©
Science

I deserve it! The science of moral licensing

Been for a run? Have a Mars bar. Donated to charity? Splurge on a dress. A growing body of research has highlighted an interesting quirk of human behaviour – moral licensing. Dr. Paul Conway, who studies the psychology of morality, explains to Canvas8 how good actions license bad behaviour.

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Imagine it’s the weekly shop. Your basket is filled with healthy foods, free-range eggs, and Fairtrade bananas. You’re under budget and, even better, you’ve remembered to bring a reusable tote bag. Reflecting on this good behaviour as you head to the checkout, you think to yourself, ‘I deserve a reward’. Next thing you know, you’re outside the shop chugging a bottle of Coca-Cola and gorging on a Mars Bar.

A growing body of research has highlighted an interesting quirk of human behaviour – moral licensing – that reveals the surprising ways people use their good actions to permit bad ...

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