Shopping to Save the Planet? Implicit Rather than Explicit Attitudes Predict Low Carbon Footprint Consumer Choice
Climate change is upon us and requires urgent action. This has led to carbon footprint information appearing on products. But are consumers primed to change their behaviour? What is their fundamental attitude to low carbon products? And what attitudes might predict actual consumer behaviour? This study found that whilst most participants were pro-low carbon on both the explicit and implicit measures, the explicit and implicit scores did not themselves correlate. In addition, a number of participants scored significantly more positively on explicit than implicit measures, reflecting the social desirability of being seen as green. Neither of the explicit measures significantly differentiated the choice of high/low carbon products but the implicit measure did. Furthermore, it appears that when under time pressure, people seem to rely on their underlying implicit attitude to guide their consumer choices. Thus, it could be argued that if we are to genuinely engineer a green revolution, then we must augment these implicit attitudes and ensure that they translate to actual behaviour, for example, by designing carbon footprint ‘signals’ aimed primarily at the implicit system.
||Implicit Attitudes, Explicit Attitudes, Carbon Footprint, Carbon Labelling, Sustainability
The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.211-232.
Article: Print (Spiral Bound).
Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.007MB).
Professor, 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 Professorial Research Fellow 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
17 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
Research Assistant, School of Psychological Sciences, Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Laura Sale is a Research Assistant in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University
of Manchester and is part of a research team at the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI)
established at the University of Manchester, and sponsored by Tesco. Laura is currently
working with Professor Geoffrey Beattie under the Sustainable Consumer Behaviours and
Lifestyles theme at the SCI with a particular focus on implicit and explicit attitudes in the
context of sustainable consumption. This research aims to generate new insights into the
psychological variables underpinning low carbon footprint choices and offer specific recommendations
on how these core psychological variables can be targeted in order to increase
the salience of carbon footprint information in the consumer environment.
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