Moral balancing and sustainable behavior (II)

Last registered on August 30, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Moral balancing and sustainable behavior (II)
Initial registration date
August 29, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
August 30, 2021, 6:09 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Bochum

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
In an online experiment, we investigate the role of the environmental self-image of agents for engaging in climate change mitigation. In a real-effort task, subjects can generate donations that offset carbon emissions. Prior to the task, subjects are either positively or negatively manipulated in their environmental self-image. The donations generated in these interventions are compared to a control group. We test whether the manipulation of the environmental self-image induces moral balancing effects (cleansing/licensing) or leads to consistency. Further, we aim to determine heterogeneous treatment effects for High and Low environmental types, to test for the impact of type uncertainty on balancing behavior as suggested in the theoretical work of Bénabou and Tirole 2011 and to observe how balacing evolves over time. In addition, we investigate how and if our variations also affect participants' expectations regarding others' behavior in our task.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Feldhaus, Christoph et al. 2021. "Moral balancing and sustainable behavior (II)." AEA RCT Registry. August 30.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Provided effort
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Norm estimation regarding effort provision in the experiment (by environmental type)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
In an experimental survey, we vary people's environmental self-image and then measure their behavior in a real-effort task generating donations for climate protection. In addition, we vary the efficiency of their pro-environmental action.
Experimental Design Details
We measure participants' environmental self-image before the experimental variation and after the experimental variation. We also measure the self-image after a real effort task.

We ask for their estimation of average real-effort behavior of participants in our experiment (also conditional on the respective environmental type).

We measure the objective environmental type (by asking e.g. whether they work for a nature conservation organization and whether they purchase green electricity).

We ask for common demographic characteristics.

Planned analyses:

Our main aim is to test for moral balancing/consistency effects in sustainable behavior.

- we test whether different environmental types (identified by e.g. median split) react differently to our experimental variations wrt to self image.
- we test for differences in the effect of our experimental variation conditional on people's self-stated uncertainty regarding their environmental type (rather certain vs rather uncertain) as suggested in Bénabou and Tirole 2011.
- we test whether the efficiency of the enviromental action affects effort provision (the efficiency-variable can also be used to estimate the value of the environmental self-image)

- we implement a manipulation check by asking people right after the manipulation what they think how much they do for the environment

- we test whether the subjective enviromental type correlates with the objective environmental type (e.g. being a member of a environmental organization or green energy usage)

- Using “Post-Type elicitation” as a secondary outcome; Test how self-image is affected over the course of the survey (Initial type, type after manipulation, type after real-effort task);
- Test how type and manipulation interact with norm beliefs.

Randomization Method
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
3 self-image treatments
2 efficiency
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
German Association for Experimental Economic Research e.V.
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials