Green Buying Leads to Bad Behavior

After earning 'moral credits,' subjects more likely to cheat, steal
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2009 12:52 PM CST
Shoppers at an organic whole grain bakery.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The satisfaction people get from purchasing environmentally friendly products is apt to lead to other selfish, even morally repugnant decisions later, writes Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow on Slate. It's not just the complacency that comes from thinking you've done your part for the planet, however insignificant. It's something researchers call "moral licensing"—doing something you think is good actually makes you more likely to do something dubious later.

A study had two groups buy products at a conventional retailer and a green one. Afterward, the subjects who thought they’d done their part for the environment were stingier, and more likely to cheat or steal in lab games. There are a couple of explanations, Tuhus-Dubrow writes. First, folks who believe they’ve acted morally could be more likely to view any other actions as moral, too. Second, there are “moral credits.” “When we have done our mitzvah for the day, we cut ourselves some slack.” Still, Tuhus-Dubrow sees an easy solution: Don’t feel so high and mighty about your reusable shopping bag. “It's really the least we can do.” (Read more eco-friendly stories.)

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