Self-righteousness is not new. But it hasn’t gone out of style, either — at least regarding moralistic dieters.
Mapes focuses on the work of psychologist Kendall Eskine, who “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? Those merely exposed to organic foods judged moral transgressors more harshly, and, when it came to helping strangers, “the organic people also proved to be more selfish, volunteering” much less time than the control and comfort food groups offered.
According to the oft-cited “happiness paradox,” the more you fixate on happiness the less happy you become. With moral smugness, the more you fixate on the rightness of your choices, the less moral you become.
A general principle? A one-shot study that will gain no reproducible results?
In either case, it may be worth keeping an eye on . . . ourselves.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.