A Little Anti-Social Behavior With Your Organic Carrots?

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/streamishmc/316006453/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Guerilla Futures Jason Tester</a>/Flickr

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Are people who buy organic food a bunch of selfish, judgmental a-holes? That’s basically the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Social Psychology & Personality Science.

The study found that subjects who are exposed to images of organic foods “reduce prosocial behavior” and “harshen moral judgments” of others. The researcher, Kendall Eskine of Loyola University in New Orleans, took 60 people and split them into three groups. The first group was shown photos of clearly-marked organic foods, the second was shown comfort foods like cookies, and the third was shown control foods like rice or oatmeal. Then a variety of situations were laid out for them—like “second cousins having sex” or “a lawyer on the prowl in an ER trying to get people to sue for their injuries”—and they were asked to assign a moral judgment to each, on a scale of 1 to 7.

Eskine found that the organic group was more likely to judge the people in the stories harshly. The organic test subjects averaged a 5.5, while the controls averaged a 5 and the comfort food subjects averaged a 4.89. The scientists also asked the participants to state how much time they would offer to volunteer, from 1 to 30 minutes, and found that the subjects who saw the organic food photos were still jerkier than the rest. The organic food group offered to volunteer 13 minutes, while the rice people offered 19 minutes and the cookie people offered 24.

But why was the organic group meaner than the others? Eskine offers a suggestion:

“People may feel like they’ve done their good deed,” he says. “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.”

The study has inspired a number of responses online to the tune of, “See, we knew those pointy-headed argula eaters were a bunch of self-important dicks.” But as Jess Zimmerman points out over at Grist, the study is pretty flawed and probably aimed at pissing off organic eaters. For one, it treats shoplifting, eating your dead dog, and cousins engaging in consensual sex as equal moral issues when it averages their judgments. And secondly, it was a tiny sample size and all the subjects were college students.

Most importantly, no one in the study was actually eating food. They weren’t even buying it. They were just looking at pictures of it! Staring at pictures of food would probably make me hungry and therefore more judgy and selfish, too.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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