How Brands Can Benefit From The Bias Of ‘Moral Licensing’

Richard Shotton

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Or so said the half-crazed philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Brian Wansink took that one step further and conceived a great advertising thought while getting others to go walking.

Wansink, professor of psychology at Cornell University, recruited 56 subjects to walk a mile route. Half were told to test an MP3 player as they walked, stopping off at six places along the route to monitor sound quality. The other half were told the walk was exercise, and asked to monitor energy levels at the same set places. After the walk they returned their results, collected payment and were told they were free to go. Before they left they were invited to an all-you-can eat buffet the university had laid on.

Unbeknown to them this was the real experiment. After the diners finally departed Wansink rooted through the bins and weighed the left-overs. The results were clear. The group told they were exercising ate far unhealthier food than those who thought it was a scenic stroll. Despite covering the same distance, at the same speed, the “exercisers” ate 35% more chocolate pudding than the control group.

Wansink attributed the findings to the idea of moral licensing: the tendency to over-compensate and treat ourselves after acting virtuously.

You can read the full article in Huffington Post here.