Do We Actually Look at the Carbon Footprint of a Product in the Initial Few Seconds? An Experimental Analysis of Unconscious Eye Movements

By Geoffrey Beattie, Laura McGuire and Laura Sale.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

One way of tackling climate change is by providing consumers with information about carbon footprint so that they can make informed ‘green’ choices in their everyday patterns of consumption. Certain products are now appearing with carbon footprint information included. But this information has to compete with other information, which may be of more interest to the consumer. So the question is to what extent consumers attend to carbon footprint information in the time frame that characterises supermarket shopping. This experimental study used remote eye tracking to track people’s eye movements and fixation patterns when they looked at products. It found that with certain products e.g. a low energy light bulb, there was significant attention directed at the carbon footprint in the first five seconds, but there was much less visual attention to carbon footprint on the other products examined. The overall implication is that if we are to combat climate change by providing consumers with carbon footprint information, then we will need to consider much more carefully how to make this information more salient (by targeting both products and people) because if the carbon label is not ‘seen’ in the right time frame, then it simply cannot be effective.

Keywords: Environmental Sustainability, Carbon Footprint, Carbon Labelling, Eye Tracking, Visual Attention to Consumer Products

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.47-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 947.917KB).

Prof. Geoffrey Beattie

Head of School of Psychological Sciences and Professor of Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences and Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Geoffrey Beattie is Professor of Psychology and Head of the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester. He is also a member of the Sustainable Consumption Institute recently established at the University. He obtained his PhD in Psychology from the University of Cambridge (Trinity College) and he is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS). He was awarded the Spearman Medal by the BPS for “published psychological research of outstanding merit”. In 2005 Geoffrey was President of the Psychology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He has published 15 books many of which have either won or been short-listed for major international or national prizes and he has published more than a hundred academic articles in journals like Nature, Semiotica, the British Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

Laura McGuire

Research Assistant, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Laura McGuire is a Research Assistant currently researching psychological aspects of environmental sustainability.

Laura Sale

Research Assistant, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Laura Sale is a Research Assistant at the University of Manchester, U.K., working with Professor Geoffrey Beattie on a research project into public perceptions of carbon labelling under the auspices of the Sustainable Consumption Institute, established at the University of Manchester, and sponsored by Tesco.


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