New Study: Buying Green May Make You Mean

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Posted: Mar 16, 2010 2:53 PM
In one of the oddest (and most true-to-life) studies I've seen in a while, Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Che-Bo Zhong have concluded that people who wear a "halo of green" are less likely to be kind to others and more likely to engage in "selfish and morally questionable behavior." 

This would certainly explain why Al Gore is ok with running up monthly electric bills higher than most people's annual salaries, all the while lecturing the rest of us on the need to save electricity. 

According to Mazar and Zhong's study, when people practice "green consumerism," they inflate their own egos for their efforts in saving the planet.  These "virtuous" acts--buying organic, for example--"can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours," they write.  In other words, people who buy green tend to be stuck on themselves and not very neighborly:
The pair found that those in their study who bought green products appeared less willing to share with others a set amount of money than those who bought conventional products. When the green consumers were given the chance to boost their money by cheating on a computer game and then given the opportunity to lie about it – in other words, steal – they did, while the conventional consumers did not. Later, in an honour system in which participants were asked to take money from an envelope to pay themselves their spoils, the greens were six times more likely to steal than the conventionals.
The study, entitled "Do Green Products Make Us Better People?" is published in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science. Obviously not all "green" shoppers fit this mold.  Though it's just one study and only a theory at this point, I'd like to submit that my own experiences with yuppie organic shoppers in Georgetown's neighborhood trendy food boutiques definitely suggest this hypothesis is on target.  This Midwestern gal prefers a rural Wal-Mart any day.