An interesting area of psychology concerns the priming and mood-related effects witnessed in response to certain tastes. Generally speaking, research to date suggests that sweet tastes heighten moral judgment in a positive way, while sour tastes have the reverse effects and make us judge people more harshly. A recent paper explored the implications of this for understanding consumer responses to organic foods.
The basic hypothesis was that as organic foods are marketed using labels associated with positive moral attitudes ( “pure”, “eco-friendly”, “balanced”, “natural goodness”, etc.), they should logically encourage us to be more kind, considerate and generally altruistic toward others. Unfortunately, the results show quite clearly that the opposite effect holds true. Organic foods actually lower our tendency toward altruism, whereas comfort foods such as chocolate and pizza and lemon drizzle cakes are the ones that really make us kinder toward others.
Why should this be the case? Well, one explanation is that buying organic foods so heavily associated with positive moral labels satiates our tendency toward altruism, so we don’t bother taking that behaviour any further. Put another way, buying an organic apple makes me feel smug – I’ve done my bit for the environment – so no need to do anything else, I can go back to being mean! Food for thought indeed… (bad pun, sorry!)