Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Uh-oh... buying green makes you an evil, lying, cheating, thief (behavioral economics edition)

© 2010 Joshua Stark

Via Env-Econ., a paper on consumers' choices and subsequent impacts on their moral decisions.

For those who aren't so familiar with the field, behavioral economics is exactly what it sounds like:  Studies on folks' economic behaviors.  It is a very interesting field, and my favorite radio show, Marketplace, usually has a weekly segment about it.

This research indicates that students who participated in a lab experiment, after being merely shown "green" products, were less inclined to do bad things to others (lie, cheat, and steal, basically).  However, if they purchased these products, students became much more likely to do bad things to others.

You really have to read the study to get the whole idea, but it is fascinating.  These researchers were trying to identify yet another place where humans (it is believed) give themselves a kind of moral credit from one behavior, and then spend it on another (even similar) behavior.  My take is a little different - I believe that humans take their moral action to make themselves feel superior to others, and then are able to treat the other inferior individuals in a worse fashion.  But, I'm no psychologist. 

Either way, it opens up a new notion about using moral grounds to get people to buy green... maybe.

On a related note, I guess when you are around me, you should probably keep a tight grip on your wallet.


NorCal Cazadora said...

I saw that the other day and really didn't know what to make of it. Big picture, it didn't seem very helpful to the cause.

Then again, neither is "going green" when it's linked with buying even more goods rather than making do with what one's already got. Who needs "go green" shopping bags when one has had canvas shopping bags for 20 years? They never go bad.

Josh said...

I found it relevant because of the title of the blog, and it was funny. Other than that, I don't think there is much to take away from it either.

It does explain the rationale of every major religion stressing humility along with good behavior.
: )

And as for your anti-consumerism comment, amen! (I don't have ads, yet.)