Psychologists in Canada have revealed new research suggesting that people who become eco-conscious "green consumers" are "more likely to steal and lie" than others.
The new study comes from professor Nina Mazar of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and her colleague Chen-Bo Zhong.
"Those lyin’, cheatin’ green consumers," begins the statement from the university. "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," insists Mazar, who claims to be a green consumer herself.
"If we do one moral thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will be morally better in other things as well."
Mazar and Zhong's paper can be read in full online (pdf here). In it, the two psych eggheads write:
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... purchasing green products may produce the counterintuitive effect of licensing asocial and unethical behaviors by establishing moral credentials. Thus, green products do not necessarily make us better people.
In this experiment that underlined the moral turpitude of eco-conscious consumers, two groups carried out purchases either in a "green store" or a normal store. They were then told they were to participate in an exercise intended to help design new tests, in which they would be paid money based on answers given. It was revealed to them in a dry run beforehand that they could lie about the answers in order to increase their earnings. They were also told to pay themselves - unsupervised - from an envelope of cash. As the profs put it:
Thus, in addition to having the opportunity to lie, participants could also steal...
Those who had made purchases in the green store lied and stole significantly more than the normal-store buyers, according to Mazar and Zhong.
So there you have it: People who buy green - who offset their carbon, who purchase greened-up electricity, who put windmills on their roofs etc etc - are in the main thieving, lying, holier-than-thou scumbags. The old adage is right: You can never trust a hippy.
Much as we'd love to believe it, though, the whole study - like all of its News McNugget fast-food psychobabble kind - has caused the needle on our bullshit meter to flick far across into the brown zone. Green consumers, we'd suggest, are far more likely to be ripped off by unscrupulous charlatans than they are to be charlatans themselves. ®