Using Prompts to Decrease the Amount of Lawn-Walking on a University Campus

Smith, J.M. (1992). Several antecedent strategies in reduction of an environmentally destructive behavior. Psychological Reports, 70, 241-242., ,

A literature review revealed that prompts could be an effective tool in decreasing the destruction of grass. Therefore, sign prompts were placed at four locations on a university campus as part of a pilot program. Four types of sign prompts were used. The first prompt gave a specific request: "Do not cut across grass". Another prompt alluded to the long-term consequences of walking across the lawn: "Cutting across the grass will eventually destroy it". In contrast, another prompt gave the short-term consequences: "Cutting across the grass will save 10 seconds". Finally, the fourth prompt combined both the specific request and the short-term consequence: "The path only saves 10 seconds, take the sidewalk". At each of the four sites, the specific request prompt was erected. Then, this sign was removed at three of the sites and one of the other prompts was placed in its place. However, the specific request prompt remained at one site. The number of pedestrians who walked across the lawn was recorded and compared to baseline data.


The response specific prompt was effective in reducing the amount of grass destruction by 41-53% as compared to baseline data. However, only the combination prompt was able to further reduce the number of pedestrians who walked across the lawn. The introduction of the response specific and short term consequence prompt reduced walkers to 8% as compared to 41% with the response specific prompt alone and 82% during baseline.

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