Your Reusable Bag Made You Buy That Ice Cream (It's Not Your Fault!)

When consumers bring their own bags along to the supermarket, they tend to buy more organic produce — and more treats and snack foods, a study finds.

You actually remember (for once!) to bring your reusable shopping bag with you to the market. With your environmental concerns front of mind, you stock up on organic fruits and veggies. Then, feeling virtuous and self-satisfied, you reward yourself with a container of your favorite ice cream or a big bag of chips.

Sound familiar? Scientists have spotted a trend: When consumers bring their own bags along to the supermarket, they tend to buy more organic produce — and more treats and snack foods.

Researchers at Harvard Business School and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, who published their findings in The Journal of Marketing, posit that two unconscious processes may be behind our reusable-bag-affected shopping proclivities.

Our tendency to buy more environmentally friendly products may be due to a “priming effect,” whereby one action prompts us to subsequently “behave in a congruent fashion.” (One good environmental turn deserves another.)

The less noble inclination to impulse-buy junk food, meanwhile, may be attributable to something called the “licensing effect,” meaning that when we do something admirable, we give ourselves license to do something less so.

“Previous research suggests that making a virtuous decision in one domain allows you to make an indulgence in a different domain,” study co-author Uma R. Karmarkar explained to The New York Times — like when you scarf down an entire sleeve of cookies because you deserve it after a long run.

Of course, none of us have any idea what she’s talking about. (Gulp.)
Photo courtesy of iStock

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