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CASPI Report Summary

Project ID: 336665
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - CASPI (Low-carbon Lifestyles and Behavioural Spillover)

Responding to climate change requires profound changes to individual behaviour; yet, policies to achieve these changes have so far met with limited success. We need to understand how to bring about change in consumption behaviours and broader community and political action which is commensurate to the scale of the climate change challenge. One particular area which some policy-makers and researchers are currently exploring is ‘behavioural spillover’, the notion that taking up a new behaviour (e.g., recycling) may lead to adoption of other environmentally-friendly, behaviours. This idea appears to hold the promise of changing a suite of behaviours in a cost-effective manner. Yet despite robust theoretical principles underpinning spillover effects, there is no coherent theory and limited empirical evidence of behavioural spillover. At the same time, there is very little cross-cultural research on sustainable behaviour or behaviour change.

The CASPI project involves a mixed-method, cross-cultural study of pro-environmental behavioural spillover. We are using a range of methods (including interviews, surveys and behavioural experiments) to address three objectives for the project:
1. To examine how pro-environmental lifestyles and spillover are understood and develop in different cultures;
2. To understand drivers of spillover effects across contexts and cultures; and
3. To develop a theoretical framework for behavioural spillover and test interventions to promote it.

The first stage of the project involved reviewing previous research and different social science theories (e.g., self-perception, social practices) to understand how and under what circumstances spillover is most likely to work in order to develop a theoretical framework for our work.

We then conducted a huge programme of qualitative research (219 interviews with members of the public) across seven countries (Denmark, Poland, UK, South Africa, Brazil, China and Nepal) that reflect diverse cultures and levels of development. We asked interviewees about their understanding about being environmentally-friendly and influences on their own ‘green’ behaviours. We also did two card exercises with participants: one involved grouping 32 cards listing diverse environmentally-friendly behaviours into groups according to their perceived similarities; and the other involved placing the cards on a grid with two dimensions of environmental impact and difficulty. These new methods shed light on how people in different cultures think about ‘green’ behaviours. The first card exercise was also important because perceived similarity of behaviours is thought to be a pre-condition for spillover (i.e., spillover is most likely to happen between conceptually similar actions). The interview analysis suggests that there are important differences and similarities between cultures in what influences environmentally-friendly behaviours. For example, social factors (what is normal, what others are doing) are important irrespective of where people live; while different behaviours are more commonly seen as ‘green’ in different countries (e.g., recycling in the UK, not littering in Brazil).

We are now carrying out surveys in Denmark, Poland, South Africa, China, India, UK and Brazil, with more representative samples of the public. We are testing a range of predictions about influences on environmentally-behaviour and behavioural spillover; for example, whether individual differences, such as one’s preference for consistency and green self-identity, influences consistency across a range of behaviours; and whether adopting one green action leads to taking up similar ones.

Finally, we are carrying out behavioural experiments in the laboratory and in real-world contexts (e.g., in homes) to actually produce behavioural spillover. We have already started this work in the lab and will build on this, and on the survey findings, in the final part of the project.

Contact

Keith Sexton, (European Officer)
Tel.: +44 29 20879288
Fax: +44 29 20874189
E-mail
Record Number: 193208 / Last updated on: 2017-01-16
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