Organic Food Eaters Feel Entitled To Be Mean To Others
May 21, 2012

Organic Food Eaters Feel Entitled To Be Mean To Others

Michael Harper for

Science has now proven what many of us have suspected all along: People who choose organic foods are meaner than everyone else.

According to a new study published this week in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, choosing organic food may cause some people to not only act mean, but judge others more harshly.

Surely fruits and vegetables don´t harbor a “mean gene” within them to cause us to act this way, so what is it about these products that can fill us with ill-will?

Study author Kendall Eskine, assistant professor of the department of psychological sciences at Loyola University in New Orleans, noticed a trend in the way these healthy and organic foods are branded and labeled.

“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,” Eskine told Diane Mapes of MSNBC's Health 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.”

To test his theory, Eskine and team gathered together 60 participants and split them into 3 groups. One group was shown pictures of organic foods – Apples, Spinach and the like. The next group was shown less-than-healthy comfort foods, such as brownies, cookies and ice cream. Finally, the third group acted as the control and was shown pictures of foods which fell into neither category, like mustard, oatmeal and rice.

With these images fresh on their brains, the 3 groups were then asked to read a series of short stories describing issues of ethics and morals.

Speaking to Mapes, Eskine explained the stories this way:

“One vignette was about second cousins having sex.”

“Another was about a lawyer on the prowl in an ER trying to get people to sue for their injuries. Then the groups made moral judgments on a scale from one to seven.”

In a second aspect to the study, the groups were also asked to volunteer for a second, albeit fictitious study to be conducted in the future. Each person was then asked to write down how much time they´d be willing to volunteer to the work of science, from zero to 30 minutes.

When the results were tabulated, the organic group was shown in a very negative light.

“We found that the organic people judged much harder compared to the control or comfort food groups,” says Eskine. “On a scale of 1 to 7, the organic people were like 5.5 while the controls were about a 5 and the comfort food people were like a 4.89.”

The organic group didn´t care too much for volunteerism either, saying they were only willing to donate 13 minutes of their time, compared to 19 minutes by the controls and a full 24 minutes from the comfort food group.

“There´s something about being exposed to organic food that made them feel better about themselves,” says Eskine. “And that made them kind of jerks a little bit, I guess.”