Virtuous Behaviors Sanction Later Sins
By Ashley Welch, Scientific American
Anyone who has ever devoured a triple-chocolate brownie after an intense workout knows how tempting it can be to indulge after behaving virtuously. A new study suggests, however, that we often apply this thought process to inappropriate scenarios, giving ourselves license to act in unhealthy or antisocial ways.
Researchers in Taiwan gave a sugar pill to 74 smokers, misleading half of them to think it was a vitamin C supplement. All the participants then took an unrelated survey and were told they could smoke if they desired. Those who believed they had taken a vitamin smoked twice as many cigarettes as those who knew they had taken a placebo. According to study co-author Wen-Bin Chiou of National Sun Yat-Sen University, the participants may have felt, consciously or unconsciously, that the healthy activity entitled them to partake, a concept known as the licensing effect.
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