Does moral transgression promote anti-social behavior? Evidence from lab-in-the-field experiments

Halefom Nigus, Eleonora Nillesen, Pierre Mohnen & Salvatore Di Falco


Using two lab-in-the-field experiments, we study whether initial transgression promote subsequent anti-social behavior. In the first stage subjects participated in an experimental market game. In the second stage, subjects were given an opportunity to participate in antisocial experiment. We find that subjects who impose a negative externality on uninvolved third parties in the market game are also more likely to burn their partner's income in the second experiment. This finding is consistent with a conscience-numbing effect but could possibly also be explained by participants' preferences for consistency.

JEL Classiffcation: C93, D03, D62, D63, M14

Keywords: Markets, negative externality, conscience numbing, moral licensing, moral cleansing

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