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Environmental Psychology – Recycling Behaviours

4. Social Influence

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In this lecture, we think about social influence factors, focusing in particular on: (i) Cialdini and colleagues’ research, which found that people were more likely to litter in an environment that is already littered; (ii) differentiating between descriptive and injunctive norms, the former being actions other people do and the latter being perceptions of what others think is the ‘right’ thing to do; (iii) research findings that showed, when given information about the energy usage of their neighbours, those households with comparatively low energy usage raised it and those with comparatively high usage lowered it; (iv) a real world example of injunctive norm messaging in the encouragement of towel reuse via messaging in hotels; (v) the inclusion of a comparison to others within the message increasing conformity to the message, especially when the comparison is more personally relevant.


In this course, Professor Birgitta Gatersleben (University of Surrey) explores recycling behaviours and messaging. In the first lecture, we think about the design and findings of Lord’s 1994 study. In the second lecture, we think about types of persuasive communication in the context of environmental messaging. In the third lecture, we think about methods of behavioural change. Next, we think about social influence factors, including injunctive and descriptive norms. In the fifth and final lecture, we think about pro-environmental behaviours and how they differ from environmentally significant behaviours.


Professor Birgitta Gatersleben is a professor of environmental psychology in the School of Psychology and Environmental Psychology Research Group at the University of Surrey. Professor Gatersleben’s research interests are in sustainability, urban living, environmental stress, and wellbeing. Some of Professor Gatersleben’s recent publications include 'The Use of Virtual Reality in Environment Experiences and the Importance of Realism' (2021) and '#Springwatch #WildMorningswithChris: Engaging with Nature via Social Media and Wellbeing During the Covid-19 Lockdown' (2021).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Gatersleben, B. (2022, May 31). Environmental Psychology – Recycling Behaviours - Social Influence [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Gatersleben, B. "Environmental Psychology – Recycling Behaviours – Social Influence." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 May 2022,

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