Recent research has revealed that specific tastes can influence moral processing, with sweet tastes inducing prosocial behavior and disgusting tastes harshening moral judgments.
- doi: 10.1177/1948550612447114Social Psychological and
Personality Science May 15, 20121948550612447114
- Although organic foods are often marketed with moral terms (e.g., Honest Tea, Purity Life, and Smart Balance), no research to date has investigated the extent to which exposure to organic foods influences moral judgments or behavior. After viewing a few organic foods, comfort foods, or control foods, participants who were exposed to organic foods volunteered significantly less time to help a needy stranger, and they judged moral transgressions significantly harsher than those who viewed nonorganic foods. These results
suggest that exposure to organic foods may lead people to affirm their moral identities, which attenuates their desire to be altruistic.
- Ruchira Paul writes “That study about organic food eaters and the lack of altruism may be on to something. When we are too focused on being ‘goody-goody’ rather than just good, we become more wrapped up in superficial gestures of goodness. That leads to a self-satisfied sense of moral fulfillment and therefore, diminished acts of actual altruism. If one is doing one’s bit to save Mother Earth, there is less incentive to help a starving flesh and bones mother.”
- Neil Levy (Melbourne): “There is nothing especially interesting or novel about the finding you report. The effect is well studied and perfectly general: engaging in behavior conceived of [as] altruistic produces a licensing effect, whereby people think that they “done their bit”. So people who donate to green charities, for instance, may feel licensed to drive their SUVs. There is nothing specific to green/organic here: the effect can be produced in any domain thought of as altruistic. Here’s another study along similar lines. I mention this only because there has been some discussion of the study you mention among philosophers, and the moral drawn has been about organic foods and the people who consume them. Such a conclusion is fallacious.”
An interesting point, and certainly confirms a common ground for Marxist skepticism about animal rights advocates.