Fighting plastic pollution: An investigation into whether the presence or absence of single-use plastic impacts our impression of others
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The evidence is clear that plastic pollution is a huge problem threatening the survival of the modern world. Psychological researchers have risen to the challenge to investigate people's behaviours, attitudes and perceptions around environmentalism. One area of psychology that has been scarcely researched in regard to environmentalism is impression formation. People form impressions of others based on a number of factors, but one of these is their conformance to norms. We wanted to investigate if the use of reusable plastics had become a norm for the university population, and whether failing to comply to this norm would result in negative impression formation by a groupof 165 participants. In a mock-friendship app style, participants viewed images of people pictured with single-use or reusable items, and their impressions were gaged using a number of traits. We also investigated if there were differences in the formation of these impressions, by measuring their ocean connectedness level. We found that for one of the photosets, participants did indeed hold a more negative impression of someone if they held reusable items, but overall this was not affected by their ocean connectedness. There was a small issue with the images containing branding, however this sparks potential for future research. Our results can be used to help implement behaviour change. Not conforming to this norm results in negative impressions, which people want to avoid, so making this norm more popularised outside of the university population, will result in more conforming to avoid any negative judgements.
Spencer, J. (2021) ‘Fighting plastic pollution: An investigation into whether the presence or absence of single-use plastic impacts our impression of others’, The Plymouth Student Scientist, pp. 673-698.