Using Social Norms to Enhance Pro-environmental Behavior

Using Social Norms to Enhance Pro-environmental BehaviorReese, G., Loew, K., & Steffgen, G. (2013). A towel less: Social norms enhance pro-environmental behavior in hotels.The Journal of Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2013.855623

This study built on previous research (e.g., Goldstein, Cialdini, & Griskevicius, 2008) demonstrating that social norms could be used to increase pro-environmental behaviors. One of three types of messages were posted in hotel rooms in Central European alpine resorts: (1) towel reuse protects the environment (no social norm information), (2) most guests in this hotel reuse their towels (global norm), and (3) most guests in this room reuse their towels (provincial norm). The dependent variable was the average number of towels used per person, per day. As predicted, hotel guests in the provincial norm condition used significantly fewer towels than those in the global norm or standard environmental message conditions. Reese, Loew, and Steffgen (2013) suggested that future research consider the role of the participants’ cultural, political, and environmental context in examining how social norms may be used to shape pro-environmental behaviors.

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Pro-social behavior
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For more information on how social norms have been used to enhance pro-environmental behavior, see Cialdini's article Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment.