Rivalry makes people more eco-conscious

Jun 06, 2014
Creating a sense of competition between rival groups could inspire people to go green, says UBC researcher Katherine White. Credit: yaruta, iStock

(Phys.org) —Want to encourage people to do the right thing for the environment? Tell them their rivals are going green, says a new marketing study from the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business.

The forthcoming Journal of Marketing Research paper found that when people see groups they consider competitors pursuing behaviours like composting or recycling they're more likely to embrace the activities themselves. If their peers are doing it, they don't bother.

"Past research suggests that people tend to follow the herd, copying individuals they identify with–neighbours, colleagues, friends," says study co-author Katherine White, an associate professor at Sauder. "But when it comes to eco-conscious behaviour, we found the only way to get people to up their game was to tell them a rival group was doing better."

For the study, researchers assessed the composting behaviours of groups of business in a crowded cafe. When they were told that fellow business students–people considered part of their own community–were composting, they didn't make any extra effort. But the group that composted coffee cups most often was the one told that rival computer were doing an exemplary job of composting on campus.

White says that informing the business students about the behaviour of computer science students created a sense of competition that inspired them to act. She suggests that this can be applied in a wider context.

"If a city, for instance, wants to motivate its constituents to act in a more sustainable way, they can promote one neighbourhood's green efforts over another, instilling a sense of rivalry," says White.

The study, "The Motivating Role of Dissociative Outgroups in Encouraging Positive Consumer Behaviors," was co-authored by White with University of Western Ontario Assistant Professor Bonnie Simpson, and University of Alberta Professor Jennifer J. Argo.

Explore further: Ask yourself: Will you help the environment?

More information: KatherineWhite," BonnieSimpson, and Jennifer J. Argo The Motivating Role of Dissociative Outgroups in Encouraging Positive Consumer Behaviors." Journal of Marketing Research In-Press. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmr.12.0335

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Activities the key to avoiding teenage binge drinking

Apr 09, 2014

Young teenagers with early pubertal timing are less likely to follow risky binge drinking trajectories across high school when they participated in structured activities revealed a new study from Murdoch University.

Environmental behaviour

Aug 22, 2012

Promoting the financial benefits of car sharing can inhibit other pro-environmental behaviours, new research led by the University has shown.

Using memories to motivate behavior

Apr 30, 2014

We all know that thinking about exercise isn't the same as doing it. But researchers from the University of New Hampshire have confirmed what may be the next best thing: just thinking about a past exercise experience can ...

Developing computer games with a sense of altruism

May 28, 2014

A Melbourne-based community organisation is working with Deakin University Information Technology students to develop a new computer game that rewards altruistic 'upstanding' behaviour and helps develop conflict resolution ...

Recommended for you

All together now – three evolutionary perks of singing

13 hours ago

We're enjoying the one time of year when protests of "I can't sing!" are laid aside and we sing carols with others. For some this is a once-a-year special event; the rest of the year is left to the professionals ...

We're simply having an analogue Christmas time

Dec 23, 2014

The British Christmas that Charles Dickens serves up to us is rich in food and warmth, two things that in his day were often thinly stretched throughout the year in many homes. These days, for most of the y ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.