Does green make you mean?
This holiday season, don't let buying eco-friendly products turn you into a grinch.
Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 05:59 AM
LIE, CHEAT AND STEAL: Buying anything seen as morally good may make you feel better but at the same time give you a subconscious 'license to sin', say the researchers. (Photo: Aguru/iStockPhoto)
Kermit the frog once lamented, “It’s not that easy being green.” But according to a recent study being published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, it is sleazy being green.
The Toronto Star reports that a study performed by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management revealed that, “People who buy goods perceived to be morally good are more likely to go on to lie, cheat and steal.”
They go on to say, “Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, inspired by a shared interest in green living and an appreciation of how the human mind can justify bad behavior, found that people who are simply exposed to green products behave more altruistically than people who purchase the products.”
Click here (PDF) to read the full report from the Rotman School.
The authors want everyone to know that the intention of the study was not to single out and attack green consumers. Instead they only wanted to demonstrate that buying anything seen as morally good may make you feel better but at the same time give you a subconscious “license to sin”, as it were, in ways that are completely unrelated to the act of “good” just performed.
How did the study and experiments work?
Slate.com reports, “Participants were randomly assigned to select items they wanted to buy in one of two online stores. One store sold predominantly green products, the other mostly conventional items. Then, in a supposedly unrelated game, all of the participants were allocated $6, to share as they saw fit with an anonymous (and unbeknownst to them, imaginary) recipient. Subjects who had chosen items from the green store coughed up less money, on average, than their counterparts. In a second experiment, participants were again assigned to shop in either a green or conventional store. Then they performed a computer task that involved earning small sums of cash. The setup offered the opportunity to cheat and steal with impunity. The eco-shoppers were more likely to do both.”
So as you dive into your holiday shopping, be careful of the patrons coming out of Whole Foods, because as this study suggests, you might just find yourself missing your wallet.