On this green St. Paddy’s day, finally, something that explains some of the operators of, and commenters on, some other blogs. Now, if I can just find some fair trade carbon credits to offset my corned beef and cabbage…
From the Guardian:
How going green may make you mean
Ethical consumers less likely to be kind and more likely to steal, study finds
When Al Gore was caught running up huge energy bills at home at the same time as lecturing on the need to save electricity, it turns out that he was only reverting to “green” type.
According to a study, when people feel they have been morally virtuous by saving the planet through their purchases of organic baby food, for example, it leads to the “licensing [of] selfish and morally questionable behaviour”, otherwise known as “moral balancing” or “compensatory ethics”.
Do Green Products Make Us Better People is published in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science. Its authors, Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, argue that people who wear what they call the “halo of green consumerism” are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. “Virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours,” they write.
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.
Mazar and Zhong said their study showed that just as exposure to pictures of exclusive restaurants can improve table manners but may not lead to an overall improvement in behaviour, “green products do not necessarily make for better people”. They added that one motivation for carrying out the study was that, despite the “stream of research focusing on identifying the ‘green consumer'”, there was a lack of understanding into “how green consumption fits into people’s global sense of responsibility and morality and [how it] affects behaviours outside the consumption domain”.
Complete article at the Guardian
Here is the original press release from the University of Toronto and link to the study:
Buying green can be license for bad behavior, study finds
Those lyin’, cheatin’ green consumers.
Just being around green products can make us behave more altruistically, a new study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science has found.
But buying those same products can have the opposite effect. Researchers found that buying green can lead people into less altruistic behaviour, and even make them more likely to steal and lie than after buying conventional products. Buying products that claim to be made with low environmental impact can set up “moral credentials” in people’s minds that give license to selfish or questionable behavior.
“This was not done to point the finger at consumers who buy green products. The message is bigger,” says Nina Mazar, a marketing professor at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and a self-admitted green consumer. “At the end of the day, if we do one moral thing, IT doesn’t necessarily mean we will be morally better in other things as well.”
Mazar, along with her co-author Chen-Bo Zhong, an assistant professor of organizational behaviour at the Rotman School, conducted three experiments. The first found that people perceived green consumers to be more cooperative, altruistic and ethical than those who purchased conventional products. The second experiment showed that participants merely exposed to products from a green store shared more money in a subsequent experimental game, but those who actually made purchases in that store shared less. The final experiment revealed that participants who bought items in the green store showed evidence of lying and stealing money in a subsequent lab game.
But are people conscious of this moral green washing going on when they buy green products and, more importantly, the license they might feel to break ethical standards? Professors Mazar and Zhong don’t know – and look forward to exploring that in further research.
The complete study is available at: http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/newthinking/greenproducts.pdf .