Small acts of eco-kindness can make people more likely to cheat and steal.
In a recent paper by a pair of researchers at the University of Toronto, entitled “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?” the answer seems to be, eh, not completely. Although you may have done Mother Earth a favor, your unconscious might sway you to be less ethical with your fellow man.
When study participants were allowed to buy green products, they were more likely to cheat and lie in a subsequent task than those who chose among conventional products. (Apparently, it seems that they either consciously or unconsciously used the good deed to excuse for subsequent unethical behavior. The study didn’t specifically ask them why they did what they did.) In a different study group, people simply asked to evaluate (but not buy) green products ended up being more altruistic in another task, probably because the green products primed them as a symbol of goodness.
So what’s the lesson here? Look—don’t touch—the organic bananas or you might end up cheating at poker that night? Probably not. Although I might keep a keen eye on your neighbor the day he installs those solar panels.
You can access the paper for free here.
[Via Predictably Irrational at MIT Tech Review]