n. The unconscious tendency to allow yourself to do something bad after you have done something good.
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Marketers and social psychologists have long noted something called "self-licensing," which is the tendency to allow oneself to indulge after doing something positive first. It’s what many diet experts say may be behind why so many of us fall off the diet rails on our "cheat days."

The researchers suggest we can affect our tendency to self-licence [sic] simply by changing our vocabulary. Tell yourself exercise is fun, and not work, and you may be less inclined to over-reward yourself.
—Angela Mulholland, “The key to losing weight? Think of exercise as 'fun',” CTV News, June 17, 2014
Imagining yourself as "doing good" can sometimes lead to bad things. You eat more at Thanksgiving because you went to the gym in the morning. The "good" action somehow licenses the "bad" action, because you have a self-image as a healthy person. …

Psychologists call this "moral licensing" or "self-licensing," and apparently it applies as much to corporate behavior as it does to eating.
—Ben Schiller, “Does A Company's Social Responsibility Policy Increase The Risk Of Being Evil?,” Fast Company, December 04, 2013
But moral self-licensing could explain the counterproductive results of some attempts to reduce environmental footprints, such as the recent finding that people in the UK who have made their homes more energy-efficient are more likely to turn up their heating or keep it on for longer.
—Peter Aldhous, “Exposed: green consumers’ dirty little secrets,” New Scientist, March 22, 2010
2001 (earliest)
Self-Licensing Through Moral Credentials
One critical factor in this regard, and the focus of the present research, is the actor's confidence that his or her politically incorrect behavior can be attributed to something other than prejudice. But how do people acquire such security? We propose that one means of doing so is by establishing credentials as nonprejudiced people. For example, the more a man has shown that he is not a sexist, the less he will fear that his current behavior might be attributed to sexism and the more comfortable he will be expressing a pro-male attitude.
—Benoît Monin & Dale T. Miller, “Moral Credentials and the Expression of Prejudice,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, July 01, 2001
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