Littering: A New Unobtrusive Measure of Attitude

Cialdini, R. B. & Baumann, D. J. (1981). Littering: A new unobtrusive measure of attitude. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44, 3, 254-259.

In Exp I, 227 voters' choices of presidential candidate were assessed, and their decisions to litter a parking lot with a campaign flier placed on their car windshield were observed. The tendency to retain vs litter a handbill supporting a given candidate was significantly related to the tendency to vote for that candidate. In Exp II with 166 male college students, the sensitivity of littering as a nonreactive measurement technique was tested against a standard interview procedure. Opinions toward topics with high or low social desirability were assessed by both techniques. Results show equivalence between the techniques when assessing responses with low levels of social desirability; however, when the responses were laden with social desirability, attitudes measured by the interview technique were skewed in the socially desirable direction relative to those measured by the littering technique.

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