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Monday, April 13, 2015

Strategic CSR - Moral licensing

The article in the url below builds on the concept of conspicuous virtue (see Strategic CSR – Conspicuous virtue) to provide additional evidence of the complexities of the human mind. In particular, it demonstrates how difficult it can be to persuade humans to act in their own actual interests (as opposed to their perceived interests), which is particularly relevant when it comes to solving our environmental problems:
"A recent [academic study] … finds that shoppers who bring their own bags when they buy groceries like to reward themselves for it. For two years the authors tracked transactions at a supermarket in America. Perhaps unsurprisingly, shoppers who brought their own bags bought more green products than those who used the store's bags. But the eco-shoppers were also more likely to buy sweets, ice cream and crisps."
According to the article, psychologists refer to this effect as "moral licensing," which is defined as "the tendency to indulge yourself for doing something virtuous." Although this might not seem something we should worry too much about, other studies indicate the issue has broader ramifications:
"A study from 2011 on water-conservation in Massachusetts shows how. In the experiment, some 150 apartments were divided into two groups. Half received water-saving tips and weekly estimates of their usage; the other half served as a control. The households that were urged to use less water did so: their consumption fell by an average of 6% compared with the control group. The hitch was that their electricity consumption rose by 5.6%. The moral licensing was so strong, in other words, that it more or less outweighed the original act of virtue."
After citing additional evidence to suggest that people are more likely to make 'virtuous' choices as a way to punish themselves, the article concludes that:
"The best way to get people to do good, it seems, is to make them feel bad about themselves."
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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February 28, 2015
The Economist
Late Edition – Final