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Attention Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) Shoppers: Everyone Hates You


Organic food may not be better for you, but its fans feel (and act) superior.

While Eskine's study has its detractors, similar results have been documented by a raft of other academics.

In 2009, Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto actually found that "purchasing green products may produce the counterintuitive effect of licensing asocial and unethical behaviors."

"In line with the halo associated with green consumerism," they point out, "people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products."

A "License" to Behave Badly?

And here's what Emily Anthes of Scientific American had to say, in a September 2010 article titled "Green and Mean: Eco-Shopping Has a Side Effect":
The investigators believe that a "licensing effect" might be at work. "When we engage in a good deed, that gives us a kind of satisfaction," says Nina Mazar, professor of marketing and a co-author of the paper. With that self-satisfied feeling can come tacit permission to behave more selfishly next time we have the opportunity, Mazar says. Previous research has documented this licensing effect in other contexts; a study published last year revealed that asking people to ruminate on their humanitarian qualities actually reduced their charitable giving.
Interestingly, the "licensing effect" appears to come into play outside the supermarket as well.
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