Also known as ‘self-licensing’, the licensing effect is evident when people allow themselves to do something bad (e.g. immoral) after doing something good (e.g. moral) first (Merritt, Effron & Monin, 2010). Well-publicized research in Canada asked participants to shop either in a green or a conventional online store. In one experiment, people who shopped in a green store shared less money in a dictator game (see game theory). Another experiment allowed participants to lie (about their performance on a task) and cheat (take more money out of an envelope than they actually earned) and showed more lying and cheating among green shoppers (Mazar & Zhong, 2010).
Mazar, N., & Zhong, C. (2010). Do green products make up better people? Psychological Science, 21, 494-498.
Merritt, A., Effron, D. A., Monin, B. (2010). Moral self-licensing: When being good frees us to be bad. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4/5, 344-357.