Eco giving

leonardo prius
Why do we care that Leonardo di Caprio drives a Prius?  What is it about humans (especially men) that makes us want to flaunt our compassionate side in public?

Social psychologist   Mark van Vugt has the answer.

Like any other social animal, humans compete for status, he says, because high status brings privileges. We do this with conspicuous “handicap” displays which, like the peacock’s tail, are personally costly and so only affordable to high-quality individuals. These displays can take the form of “competitive altruism” – showy generosity such as public charity campaigns where rich people advertise their wealth by competing to be the biggest donor.

Van Vugt and his researchers found  that people become more generous when their donations are made public and that generous people get more status than their stingier counterparts (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin , vol 32, p 1402) Men – though not women – are more generous when a person of the opposite sex is present (Evolutionary Psychology , vol 6, p 386)

All this helps explain why celebrity endorsements can benefit the environment. People look to celebrities and other high-profile figures for clues about what costly displays gain the most status. So by associating themselves with green causes and products celebrities can influence the domains in which individuals compete for status. Take the Toyota Prius. It is expensive – so not everyone can afford it – and green, so driving it is altruistic because it benefits others. And the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio owns one makes it a highly desirable status symbol.

But it doesn’t explain why Daryl Hannah lives off-grid

One Response

  1. All this talk about hybrids and charity, however they are just sustaining us. I think we should all be looking outside the box. Feel Free to use my Ideas. Instead of a car that has 1/2 ton of batteries, (weight equals less gas mileage) OR use the gas as a normal car; why don’t we truly ‘Hybrid’ these cars? Diesel Generators with Electric step motors on the wheels (similar to Locomotives) and the motor would barely have to exceed an idle, except under demanding conditions, like hard acceleration, or towing. I can guarantee that the MPG rating for that could exceed 50 mpg without breaking a sweat, Oh! by the way that’s exceeding 50 mpg in the city. moderately better numbers for Highway. For the fans of Wind powered cars, unfortunately it still only works in very open areas.

    Also, with the popular people; Enough of all this pseudo love, the- “I love the world more, because I saved ‘1’ mile to the gallon highway…” Take you crown of un-accomplishment and sit quietly over in the just like everyone else corner. Did you know that the former car company called NASH had a dual ignition car that reported over 50 mpg. that was pre-1960. My Grandfather worked for Nash (later changing to AMC and then Chrysler). He stated that ‘It ran that efficient because the dual ignition fully ignited all of the gas, increasing power, decreasing gas demand, and burning cleaner (well as clean as gas can burn that is…).’

    Back to the story, It’s nice to know that famous people like showing off thier soft side, I just with they would use their hard ball side to make more of a difference. A voice of many is called demand, and companies like to supply to it. Louder voices bring ‘popular demand’ and it’s a start. The other side is complaining, for the ones that do a lot of it… I say, “Shhh!” However, we need not mention names because their lawyers are better paid than mine are… LOL (laugh-out-loud)


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