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EE Seminar

Environmental Economics Seminar

Moral cleansing in the interpersonal and environmental domains


Valeria Fanghella
PhD Student, University of Trento



This study investigates the moral dynamics triggered by different types of immoral behaviors. We implement an incentivized online experiment (N=532), in which participants are randomly assigned to recall either a time they harmed another person, a time they harmed the environment or a neutral event. They are then provided with the opportunity to engage in costly (donating) or costless (signing a petition) cleansing, and to choose the beneficiary of the prosocial behavior. We find that having harmed another person triggers costly moral cleansing. Instead, when the victim is the environment, participants do not display even costless cleansing. Moreover, we observe a preference for restituting in the same domain as the transgression. Our results extend the understanding of moral cleansing and suggest some policy implications.

Keywords: Moral cleansing; Cognitive dissonance; Morality; Environment; Spillover; Online experiment

Co-author : John Thøgersen

Practical information


Webinar organized by CEE-M

Dates & time

Oct 16, 2020


Alexandre Sauquet
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Gwenolé Le Velly
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