I also have concerns about “I’m greener than you” syndrome after reading a study by Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong. The study says that people who recycle and eat organic food are less likely to be kind to others and more likely to “cheat and steal.” Download the paper here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1463018
The study is questionable, but it is interesting to see how people have pounced on it. I have seen many conservatives bloggers gleefully proclaiming ecologically-minded people as “mean, holier-than-thou hypocrites.”
Article on the study from The Guardian (UK):
The researchers found that those in their study who bought green products appeared less willing to share with others a set amount of money than those who bought conventional products. When the green consumers were given the chance to boost their money by cheating on a computer game and then given the opportunity to lie about it – in other words, steal – they did, while the conventional consumers did not. Later, in an honour system in which participants were asked to take money from an envelope to pay themselves their spoils, the greens were six times more likely to steal than the conventionals.
This article has been refuted by the The London Research and Consulting Group (LRCG):
The study authors did not control for existing green consumption or replicate their study on a sample of green consumers. Using actual green consumers would most likely have produced different effects. In their experiment the authors forced their participants to consume green. Also, the whole experiment took place on a computer and in a lab, which may have led some participants to think of it as a game. There is no evidence of the generalizability of this experiment to the “real world.”