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Rivalry Makes People More Eco-Conscious

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If you want to encourage people to do the right thing for the environment, tell them their rivals are going green. This is according to a new marketing study from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. The study, “The Motivating Role of Dissociative Outgroups in Encouraging Positive Consumer Behaviors,” reports that creating a sense of competition between rival groups could inspire people to go green.

“Past research suggests that people tend to follow the herd, copying individuals they identify with--neighbors, colleagues, friends,” says study co-author Katherine White. “But when it comes to eco-conscious behavior, we found that the only way to get people to up their game was to tell them a rival group was doing better.”

For the study, researchers assessed the composting behaviors of groups of business students in a café. When these groups were told that their fellow business scholars, people considered part of their own community, were composting, they didn’t make any extra effort. However, when the group that was told that rival computer science students were doing an exceptional job of composting on campus, they started composting coffee cups the most often.

White says that informing the business students about the behavior of computer science students created a sense of competition that inspired them to act. She suggests that this behavior can be applied in a wider context, to motivate an entire city to move towards sustainability.

 
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