Could organic food give you good health but a bad attitude? A study published May 15 in the journal of Social Psychology and Personality Science says that people who are exposed to organic foods are more likely to have judgmental thoughts and feelings, Fox News reports. (And they should know.)
“There's a line of research showing that when people can pat themselves on the back for their moral behavior, they can become self-righteous,” study author Kendall Eskine, assistant psychology professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, told NBC's Today.
“I've noticed a lot of organic foods are marketed with moral terminology, like Honest Tea, and wondered if you exposed people to organic food, if it would make them pat themselves on the back for their moral and environmental choices. I wondered if they would be more altruistic or not,” he continued.
The study's 60 participants were split into three groups. One looked at photos of clearly labeled organic foods, such as apples and spinach; another was shown pictures of “comfort” foods like brownies and cookies; and the third group eyeballed photos of non-organic, non-fatty blah foods like rice and oatmeal.
After looking at the photos, the participants were asked how much time they would be willing to give up out of their schedule to help a stranger. They also were presented with vignettes of various scenarios and asked to make a moral judgment.
Those who looked at the organic foods would give up only 13 minutes of their time to help someone in need. The non-organic group gave 19 minutes, and the fatty food group gave up 24 minutes — almost twice as much time as the organic group. The organic food group also judged moral transgressions significantly more harshly than those who viewed non-organic foods.
Eskine said the results can be attributed to what's called “moral licensing.” “That they have permission, or license, to act unethically later on,” he told Today. “It's like when you go to the gym and run a few miles and you feel good about yourself, so you eat a candy bar… There's something about being exposed to organic food that made them feel better about themselves. And that made them kind of jerks a little bit, I guess.”
Eskine says he was surprised by the findings: “You'd think eating organic would make you feel elevated and want to pay it forward.”
So the next time you go to the farmers market, remember to be nice to the little people.
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