We've all heard by now how Al Gore campaigns to save the environment while using an inordinate amount of energy at his mansion. The British have their own green punching bag in Prince Charles, another prominent green campaigner who's regularly called out in the tabloids for things like taking private flights to pick up awards for his environmentalism. And of course, we all know some obnoxious "go green" advocate who smugly carries his groceries in reusable bags and then loads them into his SUV.
No, but you are an asshole.
According to studies, if you took better care of the environment you would be more likely to be a selfish, lying, cheating and stealing douche bag. No, they haven't isolated a connection between old-man ponytails and super villainy. Behavioral psychologists believe it has something to do with a psychological mechanism called "moral balancing." It's the same reason you tell yourself not to worry about that second beer after finishing a big exam.
It's a different mechanism that tells you not to worry about that 11th beer after finishing that big 10th beer.
The theory goes that the better you are in one way, the less good you feel like you have to be in others. What makes green behavior special is that with most types of good behavior -- studying for the aforementioned exam or running a marathon -- there's an obvious, long-term return on your investment (one step closer to graduation and one of those shiny tinfoil blankets, respectively). With ecologically conscious behavior, the world isn't exactly in a rush to pay you back. Your grandkids are the ones who get to reap all that sweet breathable air.
To compensate, you cut yourself more breaks when no one else is looking. In the linked study, the green participants were more likely to steal from a group or cheat at video games. In the real world, you might tell yourself it all balances out in the long run when you hit a kid with your smart car.
Besides, your car probably sustained more damage than that kid.
So while your tiny carbon footprint might be saving the rain forest, and your ethical clothing may be saving some kids in the Third World, your lying and cheating is making life hell for those around you. And that's not even mentioning the bumper stickers.
Of our five senses, the one we pay the least attention to, and science studies the least, is touch. Yet recent experiments indicate that we may be vastly underrating the first sense we develop. Everything from the feel of the chair you sit on to what you're holding can influence your behavior and the decisions you make.
Imagine yourself touching this. You'll be kinder in the comments.
Over a series of studies, scientists found that they could easily manipulate people's feelings and perceptions based on nothing more than what the subjects were touching. Holding heavier objects, for instance, made men think more seriously about things, which in turn made them more likely to donate money to charity if asked. Men holding lighter objects were less likely to donate to charitable causes. People handling rough objects were more likely to see neutral social situations in a bad light, saying that other people were obviously in a bad mood. That means that the answer to arguably the most frequently asked question over the course of human history -- "What the fuck is your problem?" -- might be as simple as "The tag on this new underwear is digging into my ass."
He killed millions. But in his defense, that shirt looks wicked itchy.
Perhaps the most shocking find was that your hands didn't have to be the things doing the touching. People who sat in hard chairs were more likely to maintain a hard line in negotiations and were less receptive to their partner's way of thinking. So watch out for that next time you try to convince your boss you need a raise. If instead of a chair she offers you a pile of ducklings to sit on, you're basically screwed. After all, to be truly effective, ass kissing probably needs to be taken in new, horrifically literal directions.