American Sociological Association

Environmental Consequences of Moral Disinhibition

The author introduces the concept of the moral disinhibition effect as a partial explanation for some unanticipated and/or unintended consequences of technologies. The moral disinhibition effect relates to how a reduction in an undesirable consequence of consuming a particular good or service (such as carbon emissions per unit of electricity consumption) may reduce societal or individual-level inhibition about overusing such a good or service and thereby increase demand and, potentially, the total consequence. The author explains the concept at both the individual and societal levels and specifies it using mathematical formalisms.