What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
Recycling is a vital pillar in the circular economy: it minimises waste and prolongs material life cycles. Yet as it stands, current recycling rates fall alarmingly short of targets. Despite the fact that numerous brands provide recycling avenues, consumers frequently underutilize them; thereby squandering resources. This stems from inadequate motivation, fueled by the belief that individual efforts lack impact.
The Green Nudge:
In an US study involving 188 participants, researchers Alisa Y. Wu, Maayan S. Malter, and Gita Venkataramani Johar explored the efficacy of anthropomorphism. This concept proposes that imparting human-like qualities to non-human objects fosters emotional bonds and heightened responsibility. This underscores how anthropomorphizing non-human objects could trigger a sense of responsibility towards recycling, and thus motivate individuals to actively engage in responsible waste management.
Participants were enlisted to sample a bakery’s newly developed biscuit, accompanied by an explanation of the inspiration behind the recipe.
To investigate the impact of anthropomorphism, half of the participants received a text where the biscuit was anthropomorphized using first-person singular („I“), while the other half received a non-humanized text referring to the biscuit as „It“. Following the tasting and text reading, participants were tasked with discarding waste – the biscuit’s wrapping paper and accompanying note – using adjacent regular and recycling bins. The study’s focus rested on quantifying the recycling behaviour and comparing how many individuals in each group disposed of the materials in recycle versus regular bins.
The result: the participants who received the anthropomorphic text (first-person singular) recycled the paper significantly more often: 96.8% of them recycled the paper compared to 89.4% in the control group.
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