Buying green can be license for bad behavior, study finds

Those lyin', cheatin' green consumers. Just being around green products can make us behave more altruistically, a new study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science has found.

But buying those same products can have the opposite effect. Researchers found that buying green can lead people into less altruistic behaviour, and even make them more likely to steal and lie than after buying conventional products. Buying products that claim to be made with low 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 . The message is bigger," says Nina Mazar, a marketing professor at University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and a self-admitted green consumer. "At the end of the day, if we do one moral thing, IT doesn't necessarily mean we will be morally better in other things as well."

Mazar, along with her co-author Chen-Bo Zhong, an assistant professor of at the Rotman School, conducted three experiments. The first found that people perceived green consumers to be more cooperative, altruistic and ethical than those who purchased conventional products. The second experiment showed that participants merely exposed to products from a green store shared more money in a subsequent experimental game, but those who actually made purchases in that store shared less. The final experiment revealed that participants who bought items in the green store showed evidence of lying and stealing money in a subsequent lab game.

But are people conscious of this moral green washing going on when they buy green products and, more importantly, the license they might feel to break ethical standards? Professors Mazar and Zhong don't know - and look forward to exploring that in further research.

More information: The complete study is available at: … ng/greenproducts.pdf .

Source: University of Toronto (news : web)

Citation: Buying green can be license for bad behavior, study finds (2009, October 7) retrieved 18 October 2019 from
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Oct 07, 2009
Much more likely is that these people already posess the character traits that make them take advantage of such "moral" justification as license to do just as they please- be wankers. No indication that any personality asessment testing was done on the subjects beforehand. Again-not science.

Oct 07, 2009
While I don't entirely disagree with you Caliban (is that the band or ravenloft reference?) it doesn't sound like a very rigorous scientific study, this is an easily observable fact of the present day AGW movement. It's only logical that people are much more willing to just slightly change their spending habits than to actually change the way they live if both actions give them the same peace of mind.

And since all the AGW proponents tell people is that they just need to slightly change their spending habits then that is all people believe they need to do to make a difference. And you can't blame people for this, all you can do is change your own life if you are so inclined and try to educate people on how they can change theirs.

And due to the nature of modern living, changing your spending habits can do quite a bit of good, especially when incorporated into other conservationist methods.

Oct 08, 2009
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