Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I recycle, you recycle…we all recycle!

Warwick prides itself on being a ‘Green University’, however for some reason this ethos doesn’t seem to translate to the university managed off-campus accommodation. This is something we wanted to target and improve upon, especially after noticing how the recycling bins are rarely full whilst the general waste bins are always overflowing at the Warwick off-campus accommodation where we live.

Therefore, the aim of our Behaviour Change project was to increase recycling amongst the residents of Union Court. The main tactic we used to do this was to increase the amount of exposure residents’ have to recycling, and to highlight the importance of the topic. We created an infographic in order to do this, which made use of multiple persuasion techniques including celebrity endorsement, explicit statements, disgusting imagery and rhetorical questions.

We placed these infographics at multiple locations in and around the building including the lift, notice boards, in every flat’s mailbox, and directly above the recycling bins. As the infographic was presented in many locations there was more chance of them being seen, and if they were seen often enough, we hoped that attitudes towards recycling might be improved. The idea behind this being the mere exposure effect whereby mere repeated exposure to a stimulus is sufficient to improve one’s attitude towards such stimulus (Zajonc, 1968).

In addition to the infographics being placed around Union Court, the property manager of the building supported our campaign and agreed to distribute it to all of the residents via email, ensuring that every resident saw the infographic. As residents would repeatedly see reminders that they should recycle we believe that they may be more likely to engage in this behaviour. This is due to the availability heuristic (Tversky & Kahneman, 1973) which is a mental shortcut, which relies on immediate examples that come to mind when making a decision. When residents of Union Court have to take their bins out, they should be able to easily remember the infographics we created and therefore be more likely to make the decision to recycle.  

Further to this, we wanted to measure Behaviour Change by providing each flat with an extra recycling bin, making it easier to separate recycling in their flat before taking it outside to the bins where it has to be separated. We had planned on obtaining residents’ commitment to recycle more when we provided these bins. However, the council denied our request for extra recycling bins to be provided to each flat in the property.

Had we received the bins, we would have conducted a before and after survey to find out whether the bins increased recycling in Union Court. Despite this, we believe that our infographic alone will increase recycling through the many persuasive techniques we have outlined above.

~Natasha Kumar, Charlotte Claridge-Ingham and Hannah Hammam~

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive psychology, 5, 207-232.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 9, 1.

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