Researchers suggest that we are less inclined to behave morally when we feel like we have already just done so and more likely to behave morally when we feel like we have just failed to do so. Click here for the account of the experiments from which this conclusion is drawn. Here’s the overall summation of the views of the researchers:
If people feel too moral,” Sachdeva said, “they might not have sufficient incentive to engage in moral action because of the costliness of being good.”An abundance of research shows that people are motivated both by the warm glow that results from good behavior and recognition of costly, long-term consequences of immoral behavior on kin and society at large.
But the Northwestern study for the first time shows that perhaps people whose glow is much warmer than average are more likely to regulate behavior by acting in an opposite manner or passing up opportunities to behave morally.
“Imagine a line on a plane,” Sachdeva said. “If you go above the line, you feel pressure to come back down. The only way you can come back down is either by refraining from good social behavior or by actively engaging in immoral behavior.”
“If you do extra good deeds, you’re motivated to come back down on that internal barometer,” Iliev added.