Study Says Eco Shoppers More Likely to Cheat, Steal

Yeah, this is bad (and also a little funny).

Slate recently reported on a study by Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto who found that "virtuous shopping can actually lead to immoral behavior. In their study (described in a paper now in press at Psychological Science), subjects who made simulated eco-friendly purchases ended up less likely to exhibit altruism in a laboratory game and more likely to cheat and steal."

OK, so keep in mind this is all a "laboratory game," they did not follow around a bunch of greenies waiting for them to skimp on the tip somewhere. But, their results do make a eco-geek like myself pause a bit. Here's how the study worked:

In an experiment, participants were randomly assigned to select items they wanted to buy in one of two online stores. One store sold predominantly green products, the other mostly conventional items. Then, in a supposedly unrelated game, all of the participants were allocated $6, to share as they saw fit with an anonymous (and unbeknownst to them, imaginary) recipient. Subjects who had chosen items from the green store coughed up less money, on average, than their counterparts. In a second experiment, participants were again assigned to shop in either a green or conventional store. Then they performed a computer task that involved earning small sums of cash. The setup offered the opportunity to cheat and steal with impunity. The eco-shoppers were more likely to do both.


Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet.