Using a Normative Appeal to Control Litter at a Public Swimming Pool

Reich, J. W., & Robertson, J. L. (1979). Reactance and norm appeal in anti-littering messages. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 9, 1, 91-101.
A literature review revealed that a statement that puts an extreme demand on a person is likely to elicit the undesirable behavior. On the other hand, a statement that creates a norm appeal is likely to elicit compliance. Therefore, a pilot program was designed to further investigate these findings with respect to litter control. When patrons of a public swimming pool purchased an item at the concession stand, they received a pamphlet containing one of three messages. While one flyer contained an extreme demand ("Don't Litter"), another contained a normative appeal ("Help Keep your Pool Clean"). A third pamphlet, which displayed a message unrelated to littering, was used as a control. The frequency of littering was measured by counting the number of each type of flyer that was not properly disposed of in the poolside area.

The flyer containing the extreme message elicited the highest frequency of littering of the three handbills. The "Don't Litter" flyer was littered 50% of the time. In comparison, the normative appeal flyer was improperly disposed of only 30% of the time.

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