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Designing beyond habit: opening space for improved recycling and food waste behaviors through processes of persuasion, social influence and aversive affect

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Robert Comber, Anja Thieme


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Disposing of waste is a common part of our everyday life, yet we do not pay much attention to the process. For many it can be considered a habitual, unconscious process. Disposed goods and materials, however, do not simply disappear. This issue has been approached widely and in a variety of disciplines and arenas, including HCI. We add to this growing literature by considering recycling and food waste as habitual behavior and investigate the potential to design toward conscious reflection on waste disposal intentions and behaviors through social influence and aversive affect. That is, we aim to design beyond habitual performance of waste disposal behavior in two phases of (1) awareness raising and (2) supporting subsequent intentions for behavior change. We present results of a rich qualitative and explorative evaluation of the BinCam system, a two-part persuasive technology, which replaces an everyday waste bin with one enabled to capture and share images of disposed of waste on an online social network. Findings suggest that awareness raising leads to self-reflection and re-evaluation. The re-evaluation causes feelings of shame, where individuals perceive a disparity between their attitudes and their behaviors. Results also highlight the importance of a person’s perceived behavioral control (e.g., a person’s recycling competences or facilities) for enabling behavioral change and confirm the significance of providing “signal triggers” to individuals to remind them about performing the desirable behavior in its required context. Furthermore, as the present research extends its focus beyond the lone individual, it contributes to our understanding and study of social influence processes and group movements.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Comber R, Thieme A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

Year: 2013

Volume: 17

Issue: 6

Pages: 1197-1210

Print publication date: 01/08/2013

Online publication date: 13/07/2012

Acceptance date: 17/02/2012

ISSN (print): 1617-4909

ISSN (electronic): 1617-4917

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00779-012-0587-1


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