You might have always suspected this about the other people (not you, of course) who frequent the Whole Foods: That they were more judgmental than other people, looking down their regal noses at the unevolved masses who buy non-organic produce from the Shop-N-Save. And the competitive mentality over the parking lot spaces in the WF parking lot brings on many unwelcome interactions with these people and their hybrids and yoga pants as they race in and out. The scene even inspired its own rap song, “It’s Getting Real In The Whole Foods Parking Lot”—which manages to rhyme “quinoa” with “you’re the most annoying dude I’ve ever seen, brah.”
Now, it turns out that the untenable feeling of getting judged and shamed by organic food shoppers has actually been backed up—by science. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that “Organic branding, it seems, triggers one of humanity’s less noble emotions: moral superiority.”
The Trib bases this finding on a new book by Brown University and Boston College neuroscientist Rachel Herz, called Why You Eat What You Eat. In research for the book, Herz conducted a study on the tie between organic food selection and behavior. One group was given pictures of organic apples to look at, while another was given comfort foods.
[P]eople who were given pictures of apples labeled “organic” to look at proved much more judgmental and condemning of others when asked to make moral judgments about behavior, versus people who had been shown pictures of comfort foods. When those same groups of people were asked to volunteer a few minutes of their time, Herz says, the organic apples group “volunteered half as much time as people who had looked at desserts.”
Herz also suggests that the self-involvement that steers people toward Whole Foods in the first place may also account for those notorious battles over coveted parking spaces and the last pound of imported brie. She describes “People are feeling more self-interested, that ‘me first’ thing, then they come out of the store thinking, ‘I’ve got to get out of here quickly!’ I see this kind of thing being totally accentuated, just from my own observations.”
Certainly explains a lot, which makes it probably a good thing that we can’t really afford organic produce or to shop at “Whole Paycheck” anyway. There are hardly ever any fights in the Jewel’s parking lot. Besides, as Herz points out, “The term organic doesn’t say anything about health or content. It’s strictly about production.”