Going ’Green’ makes you mean?
2010 03 23
By Johnathan Harwood | TheFirstPost.co.uk
Psychologists say people who buy green goods are less altruistic than those who don’t.
By Johnathan Harwood | TheFirstPost.co.uk
The boom in organic and environmentally friendly goods is turning modern consumers into self-obsessed hypocrites who use their ethical purchases to justify unethical and amoral behaviour, according to new research. [PDF]
The notion that people are motivated by concerns about Mother Earth appears to have been consigned to the dustbin of history along with the hippy ideals of the 1960s and 1970s. In the modern world people are narcissistic and want payback - and believe that if they earn moral brownie points in the supermarket or by driving a hybrid car they can cash them in elsewhere.
Bizarrely the research, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggests that while being physically surrounded by ethical goods makes people ’better’, actually buying them can have the opposite effect.
The report, by Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto, states: "In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products."
The news will be greeted with glee by opponents of theories like climate change who resent what they see as the self-righteous and overweening influence of ’woolly liberal’ thinking on their lives.
Mazar and Zhong write: "Purchasing green products may produce the counterintuitive effect of licensing asocial and unethical behaviors.
"Because purchasing green products affirms individuals’ values of social responsibility.
and ethical consciousness, we predict that purchasing green products will establish moral credentials, ironically licensing selfish and morally questionable behavior."
The scenario could be described as a moral equivalent to carbon offsetting - the practice of donating to projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gasses immediately before embarking on an activity that generates large carbon emissions.
There are plenty of celebrities whose actions appear to back up the theory. Al Gore famously ran up massive electricity bills at his home, while at the same time calling on people to use less energy.
Even respected green celebs are not immune. Zac Goldsmith has impeccable environmental credentials and was editor of the Ecologist until 2007, but late last year it emerged that the would-be Tory MP has dodged tax in the UK by taking up non-dom tax status. Similarly, U2 frontman Bono relocated the band’s business to the Netherlands to avoid paying higher taxes in Ireland.
Meanwhile the father of green campaigners, Sting, was once criticised for hiring a private jet for a flight where he was the only passenger. And his band The Police were labelled the dirtiest in the world because of the amount of pollution created during their reunion tour in 2007-8.
Article from: TheFirstPost.co.uk
Buying green permits being mean: study
Kermit the Frog may have got it only half right when he said "it ain’t easy being green." A new study suggests that when you’re green, it ain’t easy being nice, either.
The study, conducted by two University of Toronto professors, found that consumers who bought environmentally friendly products were less likely to be altruistic and more likely to cheat and steal.
"Purchasing green products may produce the counterintuitive effect of licensing asocial and unethical behaviours by establishing moral credentials," the study found. "Thus, green products do not necessarily make us better people."
Titled Do Green Products Make Us Better People?, the study by Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong is set to be published in the next issue of the Psychological Science journal.
Mazar, a self-described green consumer, says she was surprised that buying green products appeared to sanction bad behaviours. "It went beyond just how nice people were to others," she told CBC News.
The professors found that participants who bought green products in the study were also more likely to lie and steal money.
Think twice, author urges
In one part of the experiment, 90 University of Toronto students were seated in front of a computer and asked to identify whether the screen had more dots on the left or right, knowing they would receive a nickel for one side and half a cent for the other.
Volunteers who had bought green products not only lied to earn more money, but stole additional money out of an envelope with $5 worth in change, which was set beside the computer for participants to take their earnings from.
Merely exposing participants to green products, however, seemed to trigger more altruism. In an anonymous game played by 156 students, those shown an online store with mostly environmentally friendly products gave away more money to a partner than those who browsed a store with few green goods.
But the results were flipped if the participants bought products. Then, those who bought products in the green store shared less money than those in the regular store.
So while exposure seemed to increase "subsequent pro-social behaviour," acting on it seemed to give licence for "deviating behaviour," the study says.
As for Mazar, she can’t personally recall an incident where she felt like a green purchase led her to a later misdeed. "At the end of the day, it’s not so clear how conscious these kinds of licensing effects are," she says.
She hopes the study makes others think twice about their conduct. "It is important that they don’t feel morally superior just because they have recycled something."
Article from: CBC.ca
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