People Who Buy Green Are Mean

Meredith Jessup at Townhall points to an interesting psychological study that indicates that people who practice “green consumerism” tend to be more mean and less sociable to other people:

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 Guardian reports on the study:

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.

I find this ironic, because just the other night I had a discussion with my girlfriend in which I commented that the people in my close personal circle who are the most liberal are also the most rude and hurtful to others. It seemed that my most liberal friends were best able to relate to others through put-downs, and are very rarely compassionate in the same way that my more conservative friends are. Sure, my conservatives friends often resort to teasing and less-than-pleasant comments, but there is a line that they don’t cross that my liberal friends do, which comes disturbingly close to cruelty.

What is even more ironic is that one of the people I was mentioning owns a Prius, and is quite possibly the most amoral person that I associate with. He is a person who comes across as quite assured of his own superiority to others, usually acknowledges his belief that certain rules should not apply to him, but should apply to others, and can best be describes as a true aristocrat. Yet he wears his environmentalism as a badge of virtue, as if it excuses his other poor behaviors.

I guess the guys at South Park had it right …


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