Environmental Economics Seminar
Moral cleansing in the interpersonal and environmental domains
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
Dates & time