back to article Greens more likely thieves and liars, says shock study

Psychologists in Canada have revealed new research suggesting that people who become eco-conscious "green consumers" are "more likely to steal and lie" than others. The new study comes from professor Nina Mazar of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and her colleague Chen-Bo Zhong. "Those lyin’, cheatin’ …


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  1. Melvin Meatballs

    It's not easy being green

    Heard about this on Radio 4 first.

    Rather fluffly psyche research that has it's merits for media sterotyping, but not much more (as with much psyche research).

    True, hard evidential science where you can see the real physical effects gives better insights, but as the brain is so damned complex, the likelyhood of geting any real hard evidence to predict an outcome is sheer fantasy.

    This also applies to climate change. The system of the earth's climate is likewise so damned complex that even the best scientific modelling becomes woefully inaccurate over even a short time period. This was aptly shown on a simplistic level with the whole 'barbecue summer' debacle.

    So, whilst being green is certainly fashionable, I'm yet to be truly convinced that carbon-emmiting armgedon awaits us. Especially as we're more likely to waste the human race with super-evolving viruses or petty wars, well before middle England gets too toasty, or flooded with polar ice-melt.

    So, why do I have LPG and other 'green' paraphenalia? Simply because it is funded to my benefit. I have 5 mouths to feed, halving my car fuel bill is just plain financial common sense.

    So perhaps I am a theiving. From the government purse at least. But at least I feel smug enough that if a 'progresive' government wants to decide how society is ruled, then I can play their game when it benefits me to do so.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    I was going to comment

    about the utter lack of an IT perspective.

    But I just can't be bothered.

  3. Rob Aley
    Paris Hilton


    They were told the could help themselves to the cash and given permission to answer the questions incorrectly, presumably by the people running the study. That means that they weren't stealing or being dishonest. The real test would presumably be being told they shouldn't do either and then see who actually did do so?

  4. Simon 39


    This study appears to have failed to produce any meaningful results.

    Let's throw some leaders of industry and politics into this test and see if we can establish another link between thieves & liars.

    Heck, we could do this all day.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    Paradox alert!

    "...insists Mazar, who claims to be a green consumer herself."

    So it's a lie then. But if she's lying, then it's true that green consumers do lie, in which case.....

  6. Adam Salisbury


    This is why so many climate studies are based on three bloody trees! Those die-hard environmentalists who shop green are more likely to evangelically lie to defend their beliefs, well founded or not.

    For some altruists lying, cheating, stealing, discrediting others and belching out junk psuedoscience is morally OK because it's for the 'greater good'. Mind you this whole does just demonstrate how policitians work, if you've got the keys to the safe and no-one's looking you're more likely to nick from it than not.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Were the 9 greens?

    "Nine participants did not pay themselves. They were excluded from analyses."

    And those 9 that didn't take any money at all, did they shop at the green or non green store? Why were they excluded, but the people who took too much, included? Taking too little is the same as taking too much in this test!

    Note, that the groups WERE ASSIGNED to the green or non green store, they didn't choose it themselves:

    "Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions (store: conventional vs. green)."

    So the researcher concludes that shopping in a green store makes you more likely to lie, however it could also be that green goods are perceived as more expensive, so making people pay more than they think something is worth, makes them treat you badly in return.

    Remember they are told that some of them will get the goods, hence because you made them shop at the green store (which they perceive as overpriced) means they will get less goods than someone shopping at the regular store. Worse, you forced that choice on them.

    You treated them unfairly and they returned the treatment.

    Welcome to Karma.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Does the dishonesty extend

    to research/reporting of results as well - after all morally they are giving the right answers

    wonder who funded the report GWB?

  9. peyton?

    I can think of a conclusion

    I've always thought green types can be prone to taking some small thing and blowing it all out of proportion; they can be overly zealous. In this study, the non-green types were told "to win the game you can 'cheat' " blah blah but they were like "wtf, this is just some lame psychobabble test, why bother". However, the green types' OCD kicked into overdrive and they went on an all out 'must win!' craze...

    Not the best conclusion from the evidence perhaps, but I'd say better than the one published ;)

  10. Rob Crawford
    IT Angle


    I remember when my wife used to work in restaurants, several of them where health food / wholefood / veggie / vegan establishments, whats the point ?

    I have so say that apart from riding bikes and supposedly eating healthy, I have yet to see people who drank & smoked to such excess.

    It always struck me that they believed that they could trade one lifestyle aspect off against another (while assuming the moral high ground) this study seems to hint that I wasn't just imagining things.

  11. Craig 12

    Stupid set up

    1) it wasn't real

    2) they were told they could take money, how is that stealing?

    I'm not defending tree huggers, but this is absolutely useless research.

    I want to know is what percentage of criminals are vegetarian.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    @Stupid set up

    It would probably be better to know what percentage of vegetarians are criminals...

    You can trust me, I waste energy like there's no tomorrow. (pun intended)

  13. Apocalypse Later

    hippy != green

    In fact, real hippies from the sixties are now older and wiser than many, and despite a predilection for believing in unlikely stories (banana skin dope anyone?) are likely to have become experienced sceptics through observation of many mass-hysteria fashion causes through the years. Or is it just me?

  14. PerfectBlue

    No surprise

    From a psychological perspective this makes perfect sense.

    Speaking in general terms we, as a society, have a common set of values. Moral and ethical standards that are taught to us in schools, by our parents, and by the media. People who are eco-consumers have conscious modified their value set, and therefore to them (on a subconscious level, at least) morals and values are seen as something that can be flexible, and which can be adjusted or ignored depending on your own personal standpoint rather than being taken directly from the standpoint of society at large.

    When it comes to green issues this flexibility allows them to see things that are considered to be perfectly moral and acceptable by the rest of society as being unacceptable. For example, while society tells them that it's acceptable to eat meat and to drive a gas guzzling SUV they adjust their own personal morals to say that this is wrong.

    Conversely, it also allows them to see other aspects of morality as being acceptable when they are unacceptable to others. The most extreme example of this is the "ends justifies the means" attitude of certain terrorist cells that operating in the US and around the world. Groups like PETA and Green Peace will see it as being perfectly moral to threaten people, destroy property and in some extreme cases even commit acts of murder, for their cause. They will adjust their own personal set of morals and values to make it seem OK to threaten to kill the families of research technicians if they work in a GM lab, or carry out experiments on animals. Or they may throw bottles of acid at people on Japanese whaling boats.

    With such extremes being displayed by people at one end of the scale it's perfectly logical to expect small moral/value adjustments to be displayed by people at the other end.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Makes sense to me

    There are many green issues about which the definitive answer isn't known. Are we primarily responsible for global warming? No one *knows*. Do mobile phones cause cancer? Know one *knows*. Why are the bees and sparrows disappearing? Know one knows.

    But... many greenies get behind green issues like other folk get behind football teams. And trying to tell them they're not necessarily right is like telling a West Ham supporter that there's no point in their club existing because they're never going to win the premiership.

    So the greenies start spouting *theories* as fact, and the more they push it, the more they start forcefully stating this stuff as though it is scientifically proven. But deep down they know they're lying. And if they're going to lie about that, they'll lie about other things. People are either liars or they're not.

    All the people who suspect we're causing global warming just as much as the greenies, but are rational enough to recognise there is no unequivocal proof aren't perceived as greenies because they don't rant, and thus this study finds that greenies are liars, and proven liars at that!

  16. John H Woods Silver badge

    But ...

    ...what percentage of scientists who do crap research to get their schlock results into the press should be considered criminals?

  17. Stef 4
    Thumb Up


    I don't shop at green stores, and just like Al Gore, I have no morals or conscience whatsoever.

  18. Richard 102

    @Apocalypse Later

    Bwahahahahaha!!! Old hippies wiser than many? Oh, that's good! Now tell me how politicians are more honest these days ...

    In my experience, old hippies are skeptical only of empirical evidence and common sense.

  19. The Indomitable Gall

    Moral high ground...?

    I believe the conclusion, but don't think the method proves it.

    The thing with corruption is that it only happens to good people -- bad people are bad, good people can be corrupted.

    Altruism is being slowly trained out of us. We spend less time engaged in social interaction and more time starting at the goggle box (with or without a control pad in hand) and we expect a reward for any good thing we do.

    It's conditioning -- pure and simple. We do something good, we expect reward.

    So charity bosses organise parties for themselves, send themselves on jollies, up their own salaries -- all from the charity budget -- because of all the good they've done.

    A councillor, for all his good work for the community, decides to reward himself by diverting the new bypass away from his back garden.

    Some soldiers, having liberated a town, proceed to extract their "reward" in the form of looting and raping.

    Christianity got at least one thing right: we're all "sinners", and doing good things is just making us "less bad", not "good". Following that line, we would never get to the stage that we assume the right to select our own reward.

  20. Mike Cardwell


    I like the uri of this article more than the article its self: "greens_are_thieves_and_liars_say_trick_cyclists"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    @Rob Crawford: You seem to be muddling up health consciousness with taking a moral position. If I become vegan because I don't think it's right to kill living creatures just because they taste nice, what has my smoking and drinking got to do with anything?

    @The Indomitable Gall: Are you saying that none of those things happened before TV? Christianity got nothing "right". "Right", "good" and "sin" are all subjective terms. There can only be "right" if you can find an objective measure.

  22. Anonymous Coward


    we'd suggest, are far more likely to be ripped off by unscrupulous charlatans

    They are stupid as well as lying cheating theives etc.

  23. Whitter
    Thumb Up

    To whoever selected the story image...

    Very well done!

  24. Aron
    Big Brother


    Greens: 3% of the vote but want 100% of the attention. Just like any charlatan, con-merchant, spammer, authoritarian, cult leader, or anyone else who wants insists they should have more attention than anyone wishes to pay them.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better dead than ...

    Lewis' increasingly hysterical outbursts againsts greens - on the most spurious grounds continues apace.

  26. Sir Sham Cad

    So, to clarify:

    They took a bunch of random people, who may or may not have Green politics, randomly divided them into groups and made them shop at two stores, one with "normal" prices and one a premium store for people who want to feel good about their consumerism but pay extra.

    These people didn't get to choose which store they wanted to buy from using their own moral compass.

    Is it surprising when more of the people who were forced into buying overpriced goods wanted a bit more in compensation? Regardless of where the dosh came from in the first place, knowing a fair trade is ingrained into our psyche and I would posit that this test is a better test of *that* than any tendency to give oneself permission to do a few naughties because you're busy saving the planet everytime you use eco-friendly washing up liquid.

    The El-Reg bullshit meter seems to have got this spot on.

    Now, whether or not those who are making money from the Green Industry are a bunch of lying, thieving bastards is another matter. Yes, Climate Change is real, stop trying to sell me energy efficient tea bags and electricity that comes from the same power station but you'll plant an otter occasionally and send my bill on green paper, and sort out the dirty energy problem on an industrial scale you useless, profiteering sacks of shit! Also: politicians, you do not get Green Points from the public for shovelling money into crappy electric cars none of us can afford or even use if we could, that also get their fuel from the same otter-planting power station as my curly lightbulbs that save energy by being as bright as a blackbird's arse at night!

    I may have had too much fairtrade coffee.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Proof all Prius drivers are twats.

  28. Joe Futrelle
    Thumb Up

    as a Green

    I find the study and article amusing. Lighten up, commentards!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Not surprised at all.

    I've come up against this attitude in real life.

    Green purchases are the liberal equivalent to papal indulgencies in the 21st century. It's not fair to just say greens, though. As an example, this works for both sides of the political fence:

    "I'm against the death penalty, but for abortion."

    "I'm against abortion, but I'm for the death penalty."

    "I'm a Liberal, and all Conservatives are racist pr*cks"

    "I'm a Conservative, and all Liberals are irreligious libertines"

    "If I represent poor people, then I can aid and abet tax fraud/whatever ACORN's doing this week."

    "If I go to church, then I can abuse people who do not meet my moral standards."

    To be fair, the scientists needed to select and test for the "I do {foo}, which is good, so I can do {bar}, because I'm now a good person, and gosh darn it, people LIKE me." condition, as well as for evidence that forcing a dichotomous condition onto an argument that isn't really there leads to hypocrisy..

    However, I think that many people will already know that that exists, and you can't tell the others anything anyway. May as well write "people are hypocrites" on the report and send the grant money back. Oh, wait. They are doing good research, no need to send it back.

  30. Don Mitchell

    The True Believer

    Eric Hoffer has claimed that "True Believers" often feel justified in immoral behavior. I think that is evident in the disinformation you hear from religion fantatics or any zealous follower of a political mass movement. Even the comments on The Register is littered with disinformation from computer fanboys of various sects.

  31. fishman

    It explains

    It explains why Al Gore says one thing, and actually does something different.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @"Not stealing" commenters

    Um, yeah, it _is_ stealing. They were told to "pay themselves", presumably some predetermined amount. If I leave 20 dollars on my desk and tell you to take the 10 dollars I owe you, you think it's not stealing if you take all 20?? Furrfu.

  33. adifferentbob


    I have to admit that I understand neither the article nor most of the comments. See you in the pub.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Are you all blind? This has nothing to do with whether greens are thieves

    The people selected for this test weren't environmentalists, they were just random normal everyday ordinary people, and the conclusion of the test is that everyday folk are more likely to cheat after shopping in a "green" supermarket than after shopping in an ordinary everyday supermarket.

    It draws no conclusions about how *actual* greens behave, unless you make the additional supporting assumption that buying so-called green products actually really makes you into a real environmentalist, rather than, for example, it being a shallow and meaningless token gesture. But *real* greens aren't to be found trying to assuage their conscience by shopping for mass-produced goods in supermarkets. They figure it's better to just not buy lots of useless consumer crap in the first place.

    In other words, this study tells us about the behaviour of hypocrites, not greens.

    It's funny how many people have read the jokey-but-not-actually-real headline, found it confirms their favourite prejudice, and gone on to come out with pathetic little bits of armchair psychology that attempt to explain this non-finding that the study doesn't actually say. I'm talking to you, Adam Salisbury, peyton?, Rob Crawford, PerfectBlue, Anonymous Coward 12:14 GMT, Anonymous Coward 13:22 GMT, Aron, Anonymous Coward 15:04 GMT. You are clearly delusional; prejudiced so far beyond rationality that it is actually impeding your ability to comprehend what you read. Sure, you're welcome to hate hippies and greens for any reason you like or none at all, it's a free world, but you might actually want to be able to read and understand plain English without fooling yourself about what it says; you can still cling to your precious beliefs without having to fabricate falsehoods to deceive yourselves.

    Then again, if your confidence in your beliefs is that fragile, maybe you should really consider whether you want to re-evaluate them? Maybe the reason you're so worried they could turn out to be false is because they are, in fact, false? That's the usual reason for getting so wound up and snobby and coming over all Telegraph-letters-page-angry-of-Tunbridge-Wells at people, after all.

  35. foo_bar_baz


    What a load of crock. Let me guess, you've never admitted to being wrong. You talk about people being "flexible" with their values and beliefs, like it's bad. I'll talk to you about people making up justifications to support their own beliefs in the face of undeniable evidence.

    You've set up a false dichotomy between self-chosen values and the "right" set of values of the majority. In fact we all have outside influences but ultimately we have free will and are individually responsible for our choices.

    If the majority is right, how can both the people of US and North Korea be right? How can both Jews and Muslims be right? Don't they all follow the majority beliefs in their societies? If you ever wondered how people justified to themselves taking part in the holocaust or slavery, look at your own post.

    Don't try to hide behind the majority view, because if you know any history, the majority view changes. It was OK to be a racist in the USA 50 years ago, but not now. In fact green values have already become the norm in many countries. While SUVs are not evil in themselves, yes, it's antisocial to drive an SUV if you can make do with a less polluting alternative.

  36. JohnG

    South Park

    This reminds me of that South Park episode where everyone starts buying hybrid cars and then their feelings of superiority generate a huge cloud of smug....

  37. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green"

    I agree totally. If I am exposed to a thick wad of green bills, I will take it and be much more altruistic than I normally am.

  38. peyton?

    @are you all blind?


    But I actually consider myself a green. I'm OCD about recycling anything and everything that can be recycled. I also do most of my grocery shopping at US hippie central, Whole Foods, where I am basically surround by the people in the study (well half the people in the study).

    I'll just add that your post actually confirms my post, is full of fail, and I'll add the icon I guess I should have used earlier.

    Calm down dude. Life's too short.

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