Virtuous Greens more likely to lie, cheat, and steal

Maybe I should have written “sanctimonious” rather than “virtuous,” but… whatever. A study reported in the UK’s Guardian newspaper shows that our moral superiors in the “save the Earth” movement are also more likely to steal and then lie about it:

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.

Why am I not surprised?  Waiting

(via the always thoughtful and moderate James Delingpole)

3 Responses to Virtuous Greens more likely to lie, cheat, and steal

  1. Porkchop says:

    I’ve got even less faith in psychological studies than I do in polls, for many of the same reasons. You can read the actual study here:

    Click to access Green%20Products%20Psych%20Sci.pdf

    Here’s their test groups:

    Experiment 1: Impressions of Green Consumers
    Fifty-nine students (32 female) from the University of Toronto volunteered for a 5-minute survey.

    Experiment 2: Priming and Licensing
    One hundred fifty-six students (95 female) from the University of Toronto volunteered for an hour-long experiment in exchange for class credit.

    Experiment 3: Licensing Lying and Stealing
    Ninety undergraduate students (56 female) from the University of Toronto volunteered for this experiment in exchange for five Canadian Dollars.

    Can you really extrapolate from a self-selected group of CANADIAN COLLEGE STUDENTS to make any kind of real assessment about anything? I wouldn’t even stay the study applies to Canadian U of Toronto students.

    As far as the lying and stealing thing goes, if you read how they actually setup the experiment I think it is far more likely U of T students are just bad at making change, rounded up, or got simply got bored after doing the same repetitive task 120 times. Even so, what’s the difference between the “good” and “evil” people? FOUR TO FIVE STUDENTS. OUT OF NINETY. WITH A MARGIN OF ERROR OF THREE PEOPLE.

    While I won’t argue that the “buy a tree to make up for buying this computer/house/Hummer” isn’t self-deluding bullshit, this study certainly is.

    It is amazing what you can get away with in in a peer-reviewed psychology paper.

  2. filibags says:

    tottally aggree porky!

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