The UK Guardian reports: "Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, argue that people who wear what they call the 'halo of green consumerism' are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. 'Virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours,' they write."
Here is a link to the full research report.
Here is a link to a refutation of the study methodology.
The University of Toronto researchers recruited 156 undergrad students and randomly split them into two groups. Each member of the first group had to "buy" up to $25 worth of items at an online store that had mostly green products. Each member of the second group had to "buy" $25 worth of items at a similar online store that had mostly conventional products. Both stores had the same number of products in the same categories and at the same prices.
Would "purchase" of green products make members of group #1 more ethical and altruistic than group #2?
Well, in the next phase, when given an opportunity to share $6 with an anonymous participant, those who had "purchased" in the green store kept more of the money than those who had "purchased" in the conventional store. Thus, conditioning by having done a "good deed" by choosing green products, made participants less altruistic than others who had not been given an opportunity to do that "good deed".
In a later experiment, 90 students were similarly conditioned by having half in group #1, making "purchases" at the green store and half in group #2, at the conventional store.
Then, they were asked to play a computer game for monitary reward where it was easy to lie to increase their rewards. They were also allowed to privately make their own change out of an envelope with money in it, offering an opportunity to steal.
Would "purchase" of green products make members of group #1 more truthful and honest than group #2?
Guess what. The green store participants lied and stole more than the conventional participants. Again, having done a "good deed" licensed the participants to lie and steal! (Even though the participants knew the green and conventional stores were not real.)
The refutation of the study methodology maintains it was flawed because the participants were randomly assigned to the green and conventional groups. Had the experimenters determined which participants were really green consumers and which were not, the results, they say, would have been the reverse.
What do you think?