A new study has established that people exposed to organic foods are more likely to exhibit judgmental attitudes.
“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,” the New York Daily News quoted study author Kendall Eskine as telling NBC’s ‘Today’ show.
For the study, Eskine, assistant professor of the department of psychological sciences at Loyola University in New Orleans, and his team split 60 people into three groups.
The first group was shown pictures of organic foods, the second was shown pictures of comfort foods like brownies and cookies, and the third, the control group, was shown pictures of non-organic, non-comfort foods, like rice, mustard and oatmeal.
Researchers then determined participants’ moral judgment by asking them how many minutes they would be willing to give up to help a stranger and how harshly they judged fictional situations.
“We found that the organic people judged much harder, compared to the control or comfort-food groups,” Eskine said.
On an average, the comfort-food group volunteered 24 minutes to help a needy stranger, while the control group volunteered 19 minutes and the organic group offered only 13 minutes.
“There’s something about being exposed to organic food that made them feel better about themselves,” Eskine said.
“And that made them kind of jerks a little bit, I guess,” he said.
Eskine said he was surprised by the study’s results.
“You’d think eating organic would make you feel elevated and want to pay it forward,” he said.
But the author says an explanation might lie in what he calls “moral licensing.”
“People may feel like they’ve done their good deed” by choosing organic, Eskine said.
“That they have permission, or license, to act unethically later on. 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,” Eskine added.
The study was published last week in the Journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science.