Taking Close Others’ Environmental Behavior Into Account When Striking the Moral Balance? Evidence for Vicarious Licensing, Not for Vicarious Cleansing

Marijn H.C. Meijers*, Marret K. Noordewier, Peeter W.J. Verlegh, Simon Zebregs, Edith G. Smit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Research shows that people search for balance in their moral (e.g., environmentally friendly) behaviors such that they feel licensed to behave less morally after a previous moral act (licensing) and cleanse previous morally questionable behaviors by subsequently behaving more morally (cleansing). This article investigates whether this balancing may extend to close others, but not to nonclose others, and tests vicarious licensing and cleansing in the environmental domain. Study 1 showed that vicarious licensing effects are more likely when a close other displayed environmentally friendly (vs. neutral) behavior. Study 2 showed that environmental vicarious licensing effects are more likely for close than nonclose others. Studies 3 and 4 suggested that vicarious licensing effects, but not vicarious cleansing effects are more likely for close (vs. nonclose) others. Finally, a meta-analysis showed that overall these studies provide evidence for vicarious licensing effects, but not for vicarious cleansing effects in the environmental domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1027-1054
Number of pages28
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Volume51
Issue number9-19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • cleansing
  • environmentally friendly
  • licensing
  • morality
  • self–other overlap
  • vicarious

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