This paper explores the role of cheap excuses in product choice. If a product improves upon one ethically relevant dimension, agents may care less about other independent ethical facets of the product. Opting for a product that fulfills one ethical aspect may thus suffice for keeping a high moral self-image in agents, and render it easier to ignore other ethically relevant aspects they would otherwise care about. The use of such cheap excuses could thus lead to a ‘static moral self-licensing’ effect. This would extend the logic of the well-known moral self-licensing over time.
Our experimental study provides empirical evidence that the static counterpart of moral self-licensing exists. Furthermore, effects spill over to unrelated, ethically relevant contexts later in time. Thus, static moral self-licensing and moral self-licensing over time can amplify each other. Outsiders, though monetarily incentivized for correct estimates, are completely oblivious to the effects of moral selflicensing, both, static and over time.