Dave Stancliff Today’s Question: Does organic food turn people into jerks? blogarama.com

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Today’s Question: Does organic food turn people into jerks?

             Good Day Humboldt County!

I’ve noticed that people into organic foods tend to be vegetarians or vegans. Not a particularly astute observation I admit, but one that comes on the heels of another observation…I tend to feel guilty in the presence of such selective eaters.

My sister Linda is a vegetarian. She sneers at my steak or turkey sandwiches while eating multi bean concoctions and colorful veggies. She manages to do it with an air of superiority that I try to ignore.

Linda’s jabs about my carnivore diet have increased over the decades, yet I still eat meat. I’ve been in social situations where I was the only “carnivore” in the group and was treated like an animal that escaped from the zoo. I just showed my teeth and smiled.

I admit that I don’t eat as much red meat as I use to 10 years ago. Perhaps those years of my sister working on me have had some effect. I like the idea of fresh organic food and try to eat it whenever possible. My oldest son runs an organic farm on the north coast. Even he however, eats meat.

I ran across the following article and found it interesting – especially the results of a new study about food snobs:

Renate Raymond has encountered her fair share of organic food snobs, but a recent trip to a Seattle market left her feeling like she'd stumbled onto the set of "Portlandia."

"I stopped at a market to get a fruit platter for a movie night with friends but I couldn't find one so I asked the produce guy," says the 40-year-old arts administrator from Seattle. "And he was like, 'If you want fruit platters, go to Safeway. We're organic.' I finally bought a small cake and some strawberries and then at the check stand, the guy was like 'You didn't bring your own bag? I need to charge you if you didn't bring your own bag.' It was like a 'Portlandia skit.' They were so snotty and arrogant."

As it turns out, new research has determined that a judgmental attitude may just go hand in hand with exposure to organic foods. In fact, a new study published this week in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, has found that organic food may just make people act a bit like jerks.

"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," says author Kendall Eskine, assistant professor of  the department of psychological sciences at Loyola University in New Orleans. "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 find out, Eskine and his team divided 60 people into three groups. One group was shown pictures of clearly labeled organic food, like apples and spinach. Another group was shown comfort foods such as brownies and cookies. And a third group -- the controls -- were shown non-organic, non-comfort foods like rice, mustard and oatmeal. After viewing the pictures, each person was then asked to read a series of vignettes describing moral transgressions.

The results did not bode well for the organic folks."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."

When it came to helping out a needy stranger, the organic people also proved to be more selfish, volunteering only 13 minutes as compared to 19 minutes (for controls) and 24 minutes (for comfort food folks)."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."

Why does eating better make us act worse? Eskine says it probably has to do with what he calls "moral licensing." "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."

Eskine says he was surprised by the findings ("You'd think eating organic would make you feel elevated and want to pay it forward," he says) and hopes to do additional studies that look at conditions that might prompt people to act differently. Until then, organic eaters may want to rein in those self-righteous stink-eyes.

"At my local grocery, I sometimes catch organic eyes gazing into my grocery cart and scowling," says Sue Frause, a 61-year-old freelance writer/photographer from Whidbey Island. "So I'll often toss in really bad foods just to get them even more riled up." (source)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

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