Most of us know that organic foods are better for us and the environment. While we may feel that we're doing good for ourselves and the earth when we buy them, research is finding that some of us become rather, well, self-righteous and darn-near jerk-like. Published in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers found that just seeing images of organic foods tended to make people less altruistic than those who weren't around organic foods.
The results of the new research is super surprising and almost counterintuitive, says Lisa DeFazio, registered dietitian.
"I would think that organic products reflect 'goodness' and 'wholesome, honest' products, reflecting purity in lifestyle, health and judgments," she says. "And I would think that would make a person nicer and more giving, but this study concluded the opposite, which is that people exposed to the natural, pure, 'honest' products acted arrogant, did not help others in need, and judged people very harshly!"
In the study, researchers divided 60 people into three groups. One group was shown photos of organic produce, another saw non-organic comfort foods like brownies and cookies, and the final control group saw non-organic pantry staples like rice, mustard, and oatmeal. After looking at the foods, each participant was asked to rate their opinion of different stories describing moral transgressions, such as an injury lawyer looking for clients in the ER. Study subjects also were asked to volunteer and to write down as much time as they could dedicate to volunteering from zero to 30 minutes. On average, the organic group judged others more harshly than the other groups and they were less likely to volunteer (13 minutes compared to the comfort-food group's average of 24 minutes).
According to a Today article, researchers believe this may be because of a concept called "moral licensing" where people feel like they've done their good deed, and therefore have permission to act unethically later on. DeFazio also believes it may have something to do with plain ol' economics.
"I think there is a perception that people who shop at high-end health food stores and buy organic are snobs and a bit arrogant," DeFazio says. "In today’s economy many families can barely afford regular food, and when you talk organic, it is more expensive, so in my experience I can see how the organic products made the participants feel 'above it all.'"
No matter the reason why, this research is certainly something to think about, and a good reminder to always put yourself in another person’s shoes, she says.
"You will be the needy stranger one day, and how will you feel if someone walks away without helping? she says. "I believe in karma, and you have to remember if you help others, good things come back to you. Outside things can influence your behavior, and it is important to make sure you are not influenced in a negative way!"
What do you make of this research? Do you think that those who eat organic foods are more likely to be jerks? Or is this totally off base? Let's discuss!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.